Three Surrey towns in top 20 ranking of Britain’s best shopping destinations

The pandemic has drastically altered consumers’ priorities and shopping behaviour.

Only essential retailers – for example grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores – are able to stay open in lockdown.

And according to retail property consultancy, Harper Dennis Hobbs (HDH), the restrictions on movements have seen local high streets benefit at the expense of larger shopping destinations.

In early 2021, HDH analysed a range of variables to determine the vitality of locations across Great Britain to produce a ranking of the best places to shop.

Three Surrey towns come in the top 20: Cobham (11th place), Reigate (13th place) and Farnham (14th place) – all beating the likes of Tunbridge Wells, Exeter and Brighton.

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Two other towns in Surrey made the top 50: Weybridge (41st place) and Guildford (48th place).

Andy Metherell, head of retail consultancy at HDH, explained: “Major city-centre destinations that dominated the 2019 rankings are now replaced by more local shopping centres in prosperous areas that provide convenience and essential product categories.

“London shopping districts, including Westfield London, Knightsbridge, Chelsea, and the West End, saw big falls as the capital noted significant footfall reductions.

“The same was true of Canary Wharf, which fell by more than 500 places with most office workers working from home.”

The HDH vitality ranking measures a range of variables to determine the health of shopping areas.

These include size of the retail offer, how many essential retailers there are, the vacancy rate, suitability to local customer, the number of department stores, footfall and more.

While most of the top 50 in the ranking scored highly in the 2019 ranking, many of those which scored high in 2021 have climbed 25 to 50 places as larger retail centres have fallen down the ranking.

For example, Farnham is ranked 61 places above its place in 2019.

HDH said the larger retail centres have had their performance hampered by a combination of a greater exposure to brands at risk of administration; department store space which is also at risk; catering tenants that have been unable to trade; and higher proportions of footfall from residents that have to travel larger distances, workers and tourists.

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