Popular streets

Victoria Street’s charms make it top of the shops

Victoria Street is ranked number one in a survey of shopping destinations

It is a magnet for Harry Potter fans, lovers of tailored fashion and speciality cheese and now Edinburgh’s colourful Victoria Street has topped a ranking of Britain’s best streets for independent shops.

American Express said it had compiled its list based on factors such as occupancy rate, business types, number of visitors and “vibrancy”.

The curved cobbled thoroughfare, which climbs from West Bow and the historic Grassmarket to the junction of George IV Bridge and the Royal Mile, has become one of the city’s most popular spots for Instagrammers and shoppers looking for quality gifts rather than the array of saltire tea towels and Jimmy wigs on offer in other parts of the city.

Queues often form outside the Harry Potter shop which is said to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley that features in the books, while Walker Slater offers tailored mens and womenswear and IJ Mellis sells a vast range of cheese.

The Flemish-style architecture replaced many of the original Medieval shops that once graced the street that has recently been closed to traffic.

Its accolade comes ahead of Small Business Saturday on 2 December which focuses attention on independent traders.

Matt Piner, research director at GlobalData, which helped compile the research, said: “Despite the challenges small businesses have faced over the past decade, this research shows that a wonderfully diverse array of small businesses remain prominent on high streets across the UK.

“These small businesses have endured by offering a broad range of services which meet consumer demands, continually evolving in a nimble and agile fashion, and offering a personal touch.”

Dan Edelman, VP & UK General Manager, Merchant Services at American Express, said: “We know how vital independent businesses are to all our communities, so it’s great to once again hero high streets during this crucial trading time through our Shop Small campaign.

“With everything from grocery stores, bespoke gift shops and pet stores, there’s something for everyone, and now is the time for people to step out and support the small local businesses on their doorstep.”

Michelle Ovens, director of Small Business Saturday, added: “Small businesses are at the heart of communities and play a fundamental role in the spirit and culture of our high streets.

“They bring innovation, character and charm to our town centres, but also are a critical part of local infrastructure, supporting education, health and mental health. They support local supply chains and services and are increasingly having a positive impact on sustainability.

“A strong local small business community leads to a strong and vibrant place to live and work. We should do all we can to support these businesses on Small Business Saturday and beyond to ensure they survive and thrive.”

The top 10 high streets for independent shops in the UK:

  1. Victoria Street & West Bow, Edinburgh
  2. High Street, Stockbridge, Hampshire
  3. The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells
  4. Church Street, Hereford
  5. Broadway, Cotswolds
  6. Town Centre, Petworth
  7. High Street, Burford
  8. Magdalene Street, Cambridge
  9. The Lanes, Brighton
  10. Town Centre, Llandeilo

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