CHESTER is the highest ranked shopping destination in the north of England according to a new list by a specialist retail analytics team.

The like of the city’s historic Rows shopping galleries, the Northgate regeneration site, and Grosvenor shopping centre placed it 8th in the list of 1,000, in the illustrious company of the likes of Sloane Street and Knightsbridge.

The Vitality Rankings, the annual index of UK retail centre health released by Newmark Retail's London-based strategic consultancy & analytics team, has revealed that luxury shopping destinations thrived in 2023.

The Vitality Rankings of UK retail centres analyses a range of relevant factors, including retail unit vacancy rate, the change in vacancy rate, space being adapted for other uses, shopper spend per annum and footfall figures. The rankings have been released since 2014.

Cambridge has regained the top spot for the first time since 2019, the last ranking before the pandemic’s impact on the high street, due to the return of tourists, students and shoppers. Cobham, which has consistently ranked highly in the Vitality Rankings due to its affluent customer base and high-end retail offer, is in second place this year.

The biggest risers include Sloane Street, one of London’s most desirable shopping destinations, up to the fourth spot, previously ranking 101 in 2022. Knightsbridge, home to luxury brands including Burberry, Harrods and Watches of Switzerland, ranks sixth after placing 81st in 2022. Chelsea also moved to 10 from 131.

Other retail destinations in the capital are seeing a revival too. London West End, ranked 348 in 2021, is now at 37, back in the top 50. Its prime areas of Regent Street, Bond Street and Covent Garden have high footfalls and low vacancy rates after the challenges of the past few years. Oxford Street is also seeing strong tenant demand for space, given the global retail destination’s developments near Tottenham Court Road and the remodelling of the empty department store units. Kensington (41) and Richmond (48) have also returned to the top 50.

This year’s ranking indicates a strong recovery for many shopping centres and high streets as shoppers return to pre-pandemic shopping habits. Many larger retail destinations most affected during the pandemic have returned to the top 50 for the first time in four years.

Westfield Stratford City is up to number seven from 82, Leeds city centre is 34, an increase from 86, Liverpool city centre is up to 37 from 145, and Edinburgh city centre is 41, having previously ranked at number 207.

Andy Metherell, Head of Consultancy & Analytics at Newmark’s UK & EMEA Retail Practice, who leads the Vitality Rankings, said: “Luxury destinations have attained higher positions in this year’s rankings as the cost-of-living crisis – caused by inflation and other economic headwinds – is less likely to impact shoppers in locations like Chelsea, Sloane Street and Knightsbridge.

“Affluent commuter towns have also retained their high positions as local residents are more likely to undertake hybrid working and therefore shop in their local towns more often than before the pandemic, helping to maintain vitality and occupier performance.

“However smaller locations whose shoppers are more vulnerable to the cost-of-living crisis have fallen down the rankings as pandemic-related factors, such as vaccination rates or the presence of convenience retail, are no longer driving high street vitality.

“The return of tourists and pre-pandemic shopping habits have also boosted the performance of major shopping destinations such as Westfield Stratford City, Leeds city centre and Liverpool city centre.

“Larger retail centres have returned to higher rankings despite being a challenging year for retailers and consumers.”