Harpenden named one of top locations for shopping in GB

Harpenden high street

Harpenden has been named as one of Britain's top ten shopping locations. - Credit: Archant

Harpenden has been named as one of Britain's top ten shopping locations according to new research.

The town ranked 9th in a list of 1,000 retail centres compiled by strategic retail property consultancy, Harper Dennis Hobbs (HDH) – climbing 130 places compared to last year’s rankings.

The HDH Vitality Ranking determines the health of high streets and shopping centres, including the change in residents’ movement, vacancy rates, and suitability to local consumers' demands.

Bucks market town Beaconsfield topped the list, one of many smaller, accessible commuter-belt locations which have outperformed city centre destinations as consumers’ shopping habits have become very localised due to the pandemic.

St Albans was 32 on the list, falling 13 places from last year.

Andy Metherell, head of retail consultancy at HDH, explained: “Our analysis is unique as we use variables that both consumers and retailers consider when assessing shopping locations to rank the top 1,000 retail centres in Great Britain. This Vitality Ranking looks very different from previous years as the ‘retail health’ of high streets across the country has seen contrasting fortunes since the start of the pandemic.

“The most vital retail centres currently provide services that are essential to people’s lives, such as grocers and pharmacies. These essential retailers have been able to trade throughout the strictest lockdowns, and consumers have not been willing or able to travel far to visit these stores. Shopping patterns have therefore changed significantly since the start of the pandemic, and consumers’ local high streets are benefitting at the expense of major destinations.”

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Dan Hildyard, head of UK retail at HDH, added: “More restricted consumer shopping habits have had an enormous impact on the relative success of high streets this year, with a shift to home working encouraging residents to reconnect with their local community. Affluence is a factor here, and some consumers are protected from job losses seen in other industries.

“While city centre destinations have suffered from travel restrictions and the absence of office workers, the fundamental strengths of these locations remain, and we expect them to bounce back over the course of this year in line with restrictions being eased. These centres are also leisure and culture hot spots, and many will be looking forward to returning when it is safe to do so.”

Harpenden High Street.

Harpenden High Street. - Credit: Archant

The results have been welcomed locally in Harpenden.

Ron Taylor, on behalf of the Harpenden Society, said: "The Harpenden High Street, including the Southdown shops, has always been considered as a real gem for local residents. A treasure trove of independent shops with a fine balance of multiples and supermarkets all blended together in a glorious setting with green spaces intermingling with pubs, coffee bars and restaurants.

A number of the progressive owners have already adapted their businesses to offer an online platform or in the case of hospitality takeaway services.

"The necessity of lockdowns has had a detrimental effect on turnovers however,  and the ongoing issues of high rent and rates will continue to cause problems for long term survival.

"I think everyone in Harpenden is looking forward to the ending of lockdowns so they can return to town to shop and socialise like never before. That’s if they can find somewhere to park!"

Harpenden Mayor Cllr Nicola Linacre added: “It is great to see Harpenden performing well in these rankings as we know there are many local people and organisations that have been working hard to make our retail areas vibrant, attractive and safe places.

"However we are mindful that for many independent businesses the past year has been very tough and there is still a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds. Once restrictions are lifted, it is vital that the town comes together to support these businesses that do so much for our community.”