A new report has found that Belper’s high street is in rude health with the highest rate of business growth in the East Midlands during 2016.
Analysis by the Local Data Company for PricewaterhouseCoopers found the six new businesses opening in the town meant a seven per cent growth in the retail sector.
It was a rare success story in a region-wide pattern of business closures, with fashion shops, banks, insurance brokers and recruitment agents bearing the brunt and Derby, Nottingham and Market Harborough hardest hit.
Joanne Bamford, growth and town centres Manager at Amber Valley Borough Council, said: “Belper continues to buck the national trends with growth in the number of shops, low vacancy rates and a great mix of stores offering additional consumer choice.
“The town has been recognised as a healthy high street, offering a range of ladies’ clothes shops, which are in national decline, and new stores such as the family-run department store Clarkes of Belper.”
The report found tobacconists, hearing aid outlets, estate agents and food retailers to be the most thriving retailers in the region, but also that high streets are rebalancing from shopping to leisure.
Andy Lyon, partner and head of retail at PwC in the Midlands, said: “The research clearly highlights the changing face of town centres. Leisure and experience destinations are replacing traditional high street stalwarts.
“2017 will be a crucial year for retailers; a combination of price inflation on goods and groceries will mean that brand loyalty will play a more significant role than ever.”
Joanne added: “Successful areas encourage shoppers to enjoy the social aspect too. The quality coffee shops, eateries, green space and Ritz cinema allow people in Belper to enjoy the high street and evening economy.
“Events such as the Arts Trail, farmers’ markets and food festival encourage shoppers to return to the town and support the local economy.”
In recent years, the council have supported initiatives to boost the high street such as the Belper Ambassadors and Accessible Belper to help visitors and shoppers make the most of their experience.
Joanne said: “I am delighted that elsewhere in Amber Valley, Alfreton is trading above the East Midlands average in terms of stores retained and Ripley is attracting new stores opening this spring.
“These developments bring jobs and economic value to the borough and greater choice to all.”