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Byline: KELLEY PRICE @kellyprice_gaz

A TEESSIDE high street has been ranked the North-east's healthiest retail centre, ahead of the Metrocentre, Newcastle city centre and Durham.

The HDH Retail Vitality Index 2019 scores the 'health' of 1,000 British shopping areas, based on factors such as how many upmarket and discount stores and empty shops they have.

Yarm has come in at 65 - ahead of the Metrocentre at 71, Newcastle City Centre at 85, Morpeth at 150 and Durham, which ranked 195th.

Now one business owner says the town should celebrate its success and not focus on recent closures.

Steve Ashman, owner of Yarm eatery and coffee shop Mint Hobo, said: "What is interesting is when people come to Yarm for the first time, they say it's a fantastic place.

"They don't talk about the traffic and the parking and the few businesses that have closed - it's the positive stuff.

"Actually, the people that are visiting see us for what we are. When you live in a place, you always tend to look on the negative side; it's just a natural place for humans to live in.

"It's tough out there at the moment," added Steve, who is also joint chair of Yarm Business Forum.

"We can complain about online shopping, but it's here to stay.

"Some of the North-east's high streets are fantastic, for us to rank higher than places like Morpeth is really quite something.

"There is a massive opportunity for change, Yarm has tons of potential and it's all about the future not the past.

"If the cap fits, wear it; the town council, Stockton Council, the businesses, the residents, we all need to challenge each other so we're making the most of what we've got.

"If people are going to come here off the back of this report, we need to make sure the welcome is fantastic."

The HDH report tots up vacancy rates, the types of shops and 'less aspirational' tenants such as pawnbrokers, money lenders and bookies.

It includes high streets, small towns, regional shopping malls and major city centres - but not retail parks and outlet centres, as they have no local population and their "health does not impact a community hub in the same way".

Harper Dennis Hobbs, the Londonbased retail analyst the report, says the findings show "small but flourishing towns and suburbs" can be viable retail locations.

"The suitability to the local shopper is a key factor," says the reports, "meaning that the presence of low-end retailers is not necessarily a bad thing as long as the local area consists largely of residents that prioritise value for money.

Newcastle's Shields Road retained its title as the worst high street in Britain, while Cambridge was named the UK's best.

Jonathan De Mello, head of retail consultancy at Harper Dennis Hobbs, said: "The Vitality Ranking is a unique approach to assessing retail centres.

"By scoring centres based upon a number of aspects that both retailers and shoppers think of when they consider a quality retail environment, HDH provide a different perspective to rankings based solely on size or total sales.

"The changing face of the high street means retailers need to be confident their investment is likely to pay off.

"Quality retailers don't want to be surrounded by empty units, discount stores and betting shops, which are a clear indicator of deprivation in the area.

"While the big cities and most prominent shopping malls should absolutely be a key priority for any retailer trading in the UK, this research highlights the fact that small but flourishing towns and suburbs can be viable retail locations, particularly as rents are typically more affordable."


Steve Ashman, owner of Mint Hobo
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Apr 2, 2019
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