The spa town was the top performer in the 2017 Vitality Top 50 British Centres survey.
It came in at number 23, beating well-heeled Henley-on-Thames, Cornish seaside town St Ives and upmarket London shopping areas such as Kensington and Islington.
Leeds city centre was ranked 35th, York was 46th and Meadowhall in Sheffield was 28th, making Harrogate the highest-ranked town in the north.
The Vitality Index, conducted by retail specialist Harper Dennis Hobbs, maps 1,000 retail centres across Britain, and ranks them all by quantifying the ‘retail health’ of each centre.
Vitality is measured through a combination of the proportions of up-market shops, value-led shops, vacancy rates, and the proportion of ‘undesirable’ shops – such as pawnbrokers, money lenders, and bookmakers.
It is the first year the Vitality Index has included small towns and high streets after demand from both retailer and investors.
Jonathan De Mello, head of retail consultancy at Harper Dennis Hobbs, said:
“This ranking highlights the ‘healthiest’ retail centres in Britain, which successful brands should target when considering network expansion. Smaller centres are of increasing interest to retailers, given rents are often highest in the largest centres. So a small centre with a high vitality score – and the right shopper profile – could potentially yield strong profits.”
Richard Spencer, CEO of Visit Harrogate, added:
“Harrogate is leading the way in Yorkshire. The Index shows the town’s retail sector is performing better and is more desirable than Leeds and York – that’s good news for investors, shop brands and visitors. We should be enormously proud of these results. As the number one centre in the Yorkshire and Humberside region, and ranking in the top 10 towns across Britain, we can say Harrogate truly is the Knightsbridge of the north. It also shows how important it is to work hard to maintain this momentum and keep Harrogate as a leading destination for residents and tourists alike.
“Our boutique destination reputation is built on the quality of everything we offer here - from our independent and premium brand shops to our broad hospitality choice to our highly attractive public realm. Together, with the private and public sectors pulling together, we can be one of the most competitive and desirable destinations in England. This report shows we are heading in the right direction, but we must not rest on our laurels as competition is fierce!"