Over recent months, we’ve heard grumbles that Harrogate is becoming a ghost town with too many empty units and not enough visitors from other areas.

As a team working hard to improve our town centre, we know that Harrogate continues to thrive, but isn’t immune to national challenges.

Working alongside the data firm HUQ we can see that footfall within the BID area, which covers a lot of the town centre, has increased year-on-year. More than 21 million unique visitors passed through the town throughout 2023, a rise of two million compared to the figure from 2022 and 4.5 million more than in 2019, before Covid-19 hit the country.

The data from HUQ also allows us to see where each visitor travels from, working out figures relating to ‘granular catchment’. Using this, we can see that postcodes from areas such as Newcastle, Falkirk, Bristol, Saltburn-by-the-sea and Hemel Hempstead all feature, with closer areas such as York, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Doncaster and Halifax taking some of the top spots. In fact, in the last month a postcode from Bradford had a higher percentage of visitors than HG1 and HG2…

Using the most recent council data on vacant units in Harrogate, we can see that the town’s rate stands at 7.8%, or 42 out of 538 units. This is almost half the national average, which stands at around 14%. Harrogate’s data is also lower than nearby town Knaresborough, which has a vacancy rate of 8.2% and Ripon, where the rate stands at 9%.

Another Harrogate grumble we often come across is the lack of variety in shops – with some stating our town centre is overpopulated with charity shops and places to grab a coffee.

But we know this isn’t the case. From sophisticated art galleries and high-quality fashion to artisan homeware and delicious confectionary, the retail offer in our town is highly diverse. For example, if you take a walk down a busy shopping area such as James Street, which is known for its heritage features, you will find a range of classy fashion with designer brands, jewellers, high-end confectionary, top estate agents and much more.

On the other hand, areas of Harrogate such as Beulah Street are home to a number of coffee and charity shops. But, there is also a varied offering of retailers, professional services and health and beauty salons. This can be seen by simply taking a walk down the busy shopping street!

Not only is there an excellent shopping experience available across Harrogate, but the hospitality offer, from afternoon teas and late night bars to cost effective eateries and high end restaurants, also helps the town to stand out above the rest!

We’ve recently started work on our social media channels to promote the different streets in our town centre to show the fantastic offerings from the different businesses. Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for more posts…

We’re continuing to work hard towards achieving our objectives during our second term as Harrogate BID – and we want to do as much as we can to support all types of businesses as we maintain our efforts to improve the town centre.

If you have any questions regarding our latest blog post, or the work we do as the BID, please contact the team by emailing us on info@harrogatebid.co.uk