Online shopping is now more popular than ever, and it’s taking a toll on our high streets. 2021 saw nearly 50 shops shut per day on the British high street, and this number is only likely to increase as ordering online becomes more and more accessible.
Despite this, almost half of UK consumers said that they still prefer to shop in-person if they have the choice. But which cities around the country really have the biggest heart for the high street?
To find out, Small Business Prices analysed the 30 most populous cities in the UK by investigating their high street shopping habits. We looked at metrics including the level of high street spending, high street footfall and the number of retail addresses to reveal which cities are most inclined to do their shopping in-store rather than online.
Liverpool shows the most appreciation for the high street overall
Rank City Vacant high street services (%) Level of high street spending High street footfall (weekdays) High street footfall (weekends) Net change in number of shops 2022 (REGIONAL) Number of retail addresses on the high street High street population as a share of total local authority population
1 Liverpool 12 134 106 118 -71 26.6 33.5
2 Plymouth 19 127 176 186 -177 22.7 11.1
3 Southend-on-Sea 25 129 127 154 -136 30 38.5
4 Swansea 23 131 121 138 -100 29.2 12.6
5 Manchester 15 120 88 125 -71 30.5 25.8
6 Newcastle upon Tyne 20 122 120 119 -71 33.1 19.3
7 Norwich 16 117 112 142 -136 31.4 18.3
8 Brighton 10 126 101 120 -260 26.9 34.8
9 Bristol 17 117 101 118 -177 30 32.4
10 Sheffield 28 133 90 116 -174 40.1 24.1
11 Derby 23 115 109 116 -136 42.8 14.7
12 Glasgow City 19 123 89 135 -180 23.3 24.9
13 Leeds 20 116 96 118 -174 39.9 16.9
14 Cardiff 20 116 96 118 -100 28.1 20.2
15 Nottingham 17 112 101 110 -136 29.4 26
Our research revealed Liverpool as the UK city still holding on to the high street the most, scoring highly across all metrics we analysed. This North-Western city performed particularly well for high street spending, receiving an excellent score of 134 (compared to a pre-lockdown baseline of 100) which was higher than any other city on the list.
Liverpool also fared much better than the majority of other cities in the UK when it comes to the number of vacant high street services, with only 12% of its high street stores standing empty.
In second place is Plymouth, which scored a slightly worse 19% for the number of vacant high street services, and also received a lower score than Liverpool for level of high street spending (127). Southend-on-Sea came in third overall, though it actually beat both Liverpool and Plymouth for number of high street shops (30).
Coventry, Reading and Birmingham rank bottom of the list overall
|Rank||City||Vacant high street services (%)||Level of high street spending||High street footfall (weekdays)||High street footfall (weekends)||Net change in number of shops 2022 (REGIONAL)||Number of retail addresses on the high street||High street population as a share of total local authority population|
Our ranking revealed Coventry as the UK city with the least appreciation for the high street, followed by Reading and fellow Midlands city Birmingham. The West Midlands experienced the third largest decline in the number of high street shops in 2023, with a net loss of -250 that contributed to the overall low score received by Coventry and Birmingham.
All three cities also scored poorly for high street footfall, with Coventry seeing the lowest amount after London (81 on weekdays and 94 on weekends) and Birmingham performing slightly better on weekends only (108). The level of high street spending was similarly poor for these cities, which isn’t surprising given the low footfall.
High street footfall is the highest in Plymouth
|Rank||City||Region||High street footfall (weekdays)||High street footfall (weekends)|
|5||Newcastle upon Tyne||North East||120||119|
Plymouth, which came in second place overall for high street shopping, topped the list when it comes to high street footfall. This coastal city logged the highest footfall on both weekdays and weekends, receiving a score of 176 and 186 for each respectively. This is compared to a pre-lockdown baseline of 100, suggesting that Plymouth has actually seen an increase in the number of high street visitors since the end of lockdown.
This was followed by Southend-on-Sea, which recorded the second highest footfall across the week (with a score of 127 on weekdays and 154 on weekends), and Swansea with the third highest (121 on weekdays and 138 on weekends).
Meanwhile, London saw the fewest number of feet hitting the high street in comparison to pre-lockdown levels, scoring just 59 on weekdays and 87 at the weekend.
Stoke-on-Trent has the most shops on the high street
|Rank||City||Region||Number of retail addresses on the high street|
|4||Sheffield||Yorkshire and the Humber||40.1|
|5||Leeds||Yorkshire and the Humber||39.9|
Stoke-on-Trent in the West Midlands officially has the largest number of retail outlets on the high street at 53, beating London by a fairly wide margin despite being a much smaller city. However, although it has the most shops overall, Stoke-on-Trent also recorded the highest percentage of vacant high street services with nearly 30% of its shops currently unoccupied.
London scored the second highest number of retail outlets (45), despite performing poorly in the overall ranking. The capital’s large number of shops is most likely down to it being the UK’s biggest city, and is unfortunately let down by a very low level of high street spending and footfall. Although London still has plenty of high street stores to offer, it seems this isn’t enough to tempt people to pay them a visit.
The North of England experienced the smallest net decrease in number of high street shops in 2023
|Rank||City||Region||Net change in number of shops 2022 (REGIONAL)|
|1||Newcastle upon Tyne||North East||-71|
Though all regions of the UK experienced a decline in the number of high street shops open in the first half of 2022, some regions saw slightly less of a decrease than others. According to our analysis, the North East and North West experienced the smallest decline in the number of shops with a net change of -71, followed by Wales with -100.
On the other end of the spectrum, London and the South East experienced the biggest decrease in the number of high street shops. London saw a decrease of -389, and the South East experienced a net loss of -260.
Overall, although most cities are seeing a continual decline in both the number of high street shops and customers visiting them, apparently not everyone is quite ready to let go of the in-person shopping experience just yet. With new shops continuing to open around the country despite frequent closures, it seems many Brits do still have a heart for the high street.
Small Business Prices analysed the 30 most populous cities in the UK according to the following metrics: % of vacant high street services, level of high street spending, high street footfall, net change in number of shops, number of retail addresses on the high street and high street population as a share of total local authority population. Each city was then given an overall index score based on these metrics, allowing us to create a ranking.