WORCESTER'S booming shops are bucking trends and outperforming the rest of the region - it's official.

New data for 2014 reveals how the city centre is proving a major success story, with empty units at their lowest in years after a surge in interest from independent traders and big name brands.

Just 9.5 per cent of Worcester's retail units are empty, 67 out of 702, compared to a West Midlands average of 13 per cent and national average of just over 10 per cent.

Worcester is also one of only two towns or cities in the entire region - the other being Solihull - which has not suffered a decline in the number of shops since January after the city benefited from a raft of new stores.

Ten city shops have closed this year but another 10 new ones have moved in, compared to widespread declines elsewhere which has seen 964 net closures around the UK.

The city's net gain on shops since August last year has been eight, with many of the newer traders saying they have blown away by the footfall.

Two recent reports have highlighted the city's success, including real estate firm Colliers International, which says Worcester has a "strong" reputation among retailers.

Adrian Field, from Worcester's Business Improvement District (BID), which represents shops, said: "We're definitely seeing real improvements and a level of investment and interest which is very good.

"We've seen a lot of new shops open and other businesses deciding to expand because they're doing so well.

"I think it's partly because Worcester's offer is always improving, if you look at The Hive, Premier Inn hotel at the cricket ground, the Worcester Arena there has to be a knock-on affect from that, there is a lot of confidence about the city and people are noticing."

Traders in the city say they have been "delighted" with how business has gone in recent months.

Lucy Bushell, 29, runs children's clothing shop Little Puds in the Crowngate shopping centre after relocating from the Hopmarket.

She said: "When we moved here in August we created all these financial forecasts but we've done so well, we've chucked them away.

"It's gone much better than we ever expected, turnover is very impressive - I think people know Worcester is a nice place."

The store, which has 17,500 Facebook likes, has been shortlisted for Start Up of the Year in a national competition by the Government's start-up loans scheme.

Yue Yue, manager at Ping An Oriental, a new specialist food shop and takeaway in Pump Street, said: "We moved here in April and in terms of business, we are three to four months ahead of where we expected to be.

"We've had absolutely great support from the public."


WORCESTER is benefitting from a surge in confidence, according to the city council's leading economic advisor.

David Blake, who is in charge of the economic development, said he's seen an uplift in interest from investors looking at Worcester.

"Part of it has been due to the general economy improving, as outputs levels are starting to return towards the pre-recession levels," he said.

"But part of it is because of Worcester itself, more investors are looking at the city, are realising how great it is and we're seeing the confidence coming through.

"A real momentum has been gathering for some time now because of a real mix of both public and private sector investment.

"A lot of developers tend to wait until they see others get involved, but what they don't want to do is get left behind - we're seeing that in the city."

Other traders, meanwhile, have welcomed the data as a sign Worcester is on the up.

Yasmin Sand, from 23 Knots, an independent clothing, art, homeware and accessories shop in the High Street, said: "We are very happy, the interest has been fantastic since we opened.

"The High Street is a fantastic location and it's been a good, successful first year."

If you include offices and workshops, Worcester has 102 empty units out of 738, around 13 per cent, which matches the national average, meaning the shops have made the difference.

Nick Turk, a retail specialist at Colliers International, said Worcester had done well to buck trend by "weathering" downturns elsewhere.

"Shopping environments need to continue to develop initiatives which will drive footfall and inevitably lead to greater retailer demand for shops," he said.

Other experts say the nature of city centres are changing, with the likes of coffee shops, restaurants and independent stores likely to do well.

Andy Lyon, partner and retail expert at PricewaterhouseCoopers for the region, said: "We're heading for a High Street based around immediate consumption of food, goods and services or convenience purchases.

"I'm not sure that's what customers really want - but consumer and business economics are pointing in that direction at the moment."