Dudley's retail centre has been ranked the worst place to shop in the UK.
A ranking system devised by retail specialists Harper Dennis Hobbs (HDH) scored the West Midlands town the lowest on their Vitality Index.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, London swept the boards with Westfield London, Chelsea and Knightsbridge all in the top three, along with the “smaller but vibrant” centres in the London boroughs of Richmond, Islington and Chiswick.
Meanwhile, Dover, Ellesmere Port and Bedminster were among the bottom 50 out of a total 500 in the report.
HDH said Dudley, along with other low ranking centres such as Llanelli and Morecambe, are “clearly in need of concerted effort/investment to regenerate their town centres".
“The bottom 50 least vital retail centres in Britain highlight centres that need to make serious changes to attract good quality retail tenants and customers alike," the report said.
"These centres tend to have both a relatively low total volume of spend available and a poor quality of retail tenants.”
Councillor Judy Foster, Dudley Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said £200 million is being invested into Dudley town centre, alongside the redevelopment of the town's historic market place and the construction of 650 new homes.
HDH says it considers the prestige of each shop and the value it has to the street, rather than just looking at the number of transactions taking place within them. For example, ‘out-of-fashion’ retail tenants are considered as damaging to the overall appeal of a shopping location.
It said this allowed them to compare smaller high streets and retail centres against bigger ones. The system also takes into account the vacancy rates in each city, with high numbers of vacant units pulling down the overall HDH rate.
HDH explained: “Too often British retail centres are judged on their vacancy rate alone, however a centre full of unfashionable tenants should be assessed in a similar way to centres with high vacancy rates.
“Equally, some of the largest centres will also have some of the highest rents attached, meaning that smaller centres with high vitality may be some of the most profitable locations for retailers.”
Ms Foster said Dudley's Churchill precinct only has two empty units, while its Birmingham Street area is fully occupied.
She told The Independent: “Dudley town centre’s issues are being addressed by a strong vision and that vision is absolutely being delivered on the ground. If companies took the time to visit Dudley instead of writing reports in their offices using unreliable and out of date information, then the regeneration and undeniable buzz in Dudley town centre would be unmistakable.
"Maybe then at some in the future credible information could be released to support town centres, rather than commercially damaging them”.
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