A thriving consumer sector continues to help Middlesbrough cement its place as the city heart of the Tees Valley.
The influential UK Powerhouse report names Middlesbrough as one of the best performing in the UK, ahead of nearby centres and above other cities up and down the UK.
The quarterly report – produced by solicitors Irwin Mitchell in partnership with the Centre for Economics and Business Research – tracks economic growth across the UK and provides predictions for key business sectors.
In the latest edition, the consumer sector – which covers retail, leisure, tourism and food and drink – was shown to be a vital factor in driving and sustaining economic growth.
Middlesbrough’s vibrant and diverse city centre economy stands out as one of the UK’s star performers in a series of measures comparing the fortunes of more than 40 cities.
In the face of digital and technological change, changing consumer behaviour, uncertainty over Brexit and the impact of new regulation, Middlesbrough is consistently near the top of league tables gauging the health of this key sector.
In the last financial quarter of 2017, Middlesbrough’s consumer sector growth was the second highest recorded, only slightly behind best performer Bristol.
Middlesbrough also recorded strong employment growth, with the report predicting a further rise by the end of 2018.
In addition, the town’s consumer sector growth by the end of 2018 is forecast to once again be one of the strongest in the UK.
Victoria Brackett, CEO of Irwin Mitchell’s Business Legal Services, said: “Our latest report paints a rosy picture for the consumer sector within Middlesbrough, with its current fortunes and short-term prospects looking very positive.
“While there could be various factors around this performance, it is worth noting that throughout 2017, footfall data has showed that the city experienced growth in numbers of shoppers despite the national trend being negative.”
Middlesbrough’s retail and leisure market has gone from strength to strength over the past couple of years, from the raft of new independent bars, restaurants, cafes and shops to the recent openings of big brands like Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay and luxury fashion retailer Flannels.
This latest UK Powerhouse report shows Middlesbrough’s resilience and is a sign of even better things to come, despite a difficult climate across the UK in the consumer sector.
Among those tapping into the upbeat mood are newcomers such as Bistrot Pierre which opened to rave reviews last September, creating around 50 new jobs.
The Gallic-influenced eaterie – a stone’s throw from the newly refurbished Town Hall and overlooking Centre Square – has proved a popular addition to Middlesbrough’s burgeoning restaurant scene, and Bistrot Pierre founder director Rob Beacham is confident the best is yet to come.
He said: “Coming to Middlesbrough was quite a big leap of faith, but our experience to date has been very positive.
“The council officers responsible for economic growth are incredibly passionate about the city, and fully recognise the drivers that promote corporate development and regeneration.
“We’ve done pretty well so far – we’re looking forward to a busy autumn, and I expect things to pick up further as the new Town Hall schedule gets up to speed.
“Our strategy has been to find places where people need us as opposed to the places where we ‘should’ go – longevity is one of our core values, and we are here for the long haul.”
Kevin Parkes, Middlesbrough Council’s executive director of growth and place (pictured below), said: “The UK Powerhouse report is the latest in a string of positive announcements for Middlesbrough, building on our listing among the top ten small cities in Europe for foreign direct investment strategy by The Financial Times, and the recent Tech Nation report which celebrated our buoyant digital sector.
“Not only do these accolades position Middlesbrough as an attractive place to invest on a national scale, they paint a positive future for the town and its people.
“The investment strategy we launched in 2017 clearly outlines our ambition for city-scale investment and firmly positions Middlesbrough as the city centre of the Tees Valley.
“This latest report is a positive sign that our strategy is already seeing results, and I’m confident that continued developments in the city centre, such as the Centre Square office development, will only strengthen our performance in the key consumer sector.”