York’s high street is outperforming almost all its rivals.

A report by the Centre for Cities places York second for cities with the fewest high street vacancies in 2017/18.

With 7% shop vacancies, it is pipped to top spot by Cambridge by just 0.1%.


York leaders welcomed the figures, revealed in the City Centres: Past, Present and Future report, saying it reflected the success of ongoing city centre initiatives in the face of online competition.

City of York Council leader Ian Gillies said: “The high street is a key priority for City of York Council and we must continue to work with partners to make a positive impact on its robustness and to secure continued growth.”

Slow growth

The Centre for Cities report doesn’t contain all positive news for York.

It finds that the city has shown sluggish growth in both residents and jobs. Report authors say:

  • In a city centre like York where property is relatively expensive, its low growth may be partly due to restrictions in space within its historic centre.

    This makes York much more like cities in Quadrant D, such as Cambridge, where constraints on the availability of space require choices and trade-offs about how land is used, but without the same growth in jobs.


But the council points to a number of initiatives to change that situation, including:

What they said

York BID’s Andrew Lowson
Andrew Lowson, executive director, York BID
York has a great offer for locals and visitors from further afield. It has great independent shops, a thriving food and drink sector and some fantastic retail.

Combined with a year round events calendar, you can see why businesses want to locate to York and why the shop vacancy rates are so low.

At the same time, York BID refuses to be complacent, as we know some of our traditional shopping streets have large units that are vacant and create a poor impression.

We continue to look at creative ways of helping the appearance, such as window wraps or pop up shops and working with partners to encourage new tenants


CYC leader Cllr Ian Gillies
The high street is a key priority for City of York Council and we must continue to work with partners to make a positive impact on its robustness and to secure continued growth.


Make It York head of business Andrew Sharp
It is pleasing to see York feature strongly in this report. Despite some recent challenges, York retains a highly attractive city centre retail offer, with exceptional quality independents and top name brands, as well as a thriving leisure offer, making it one of the best retail locations in the north of England.

Having the right mix of commercial, residential, retail and leisure in our city centre is vitally important to the high street’s future and bringing forward planned developments at York Central and Castle Gateway will only serve to support this.


CYC economy lead Cllr Keith Aspden
Efforts to further improve York’s city centre is an ongoing project, making our city centre fit for residents and businesses for years to come. The report from Centre for Cities is a motivation to continue this work and recognise its importance for the city’s economy


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