YORK'S shopping scene has been highlighted as one of the "healthiest" in the country as the city is listed among the five top performing retail locations in the UK.

York appears at number four in the Retail Property Health Index's top five locations, joining Surrey, which tops the list, Oxfordshire, and Brighton and Hove, and beating Inner London (West) at number five.

The index, produced by global property services firm DTZ, ranked 128 county and local authorities according to their current and future economic, socio-demographic and retail characteristics, using historic and forecast economic data for population, unemployment and consumer spending amongst others.

As well as using demographic data about the relative affluence of households, retail characteristics which placed York at number four include the volume and type of floorspace, vacancy rates and competitiveness.

While the top five listing has been welcomed by traders, challenging conditions have been reported from York's city centre.

Adam Sinclair, chairman of City Team York and director at Mulberry Hall in Stonegate, said: "It's a positive statement for the York which will resonate nationally. That said the challenges remain and we are never complacent.

"From the meetings I have been to, trading on the ground has been tough. The consumer's recession has not lifted. There's lot of talk about recovery but I don't think for every day families much has changed.

"City centre retailers have been fighting difficult challenges this year, including the closure of Lendal Bridge and the opening of the Vangarde shopping centre as well as wider issues such as internet shopping.

"That said there is some encouraging developments. King's Square now looks undeniably terrific, we have seen some attractive new businesses opening in Bridge Street, the re-opened Judges Lodging is a great addition to the city and much improvement has been made to the appearance of retail in Blake Street."

York Retail Forum chairman Frank Wood, who also owns Braithwaite Jewellers in Goodramgate

We've had quite a mixed bag of responses from traders over the summer. It has been extremely challenging for the city centre, especially with the closure of the bridge and the out of town development, which has hit quite a few businesses.

"We do have a broad spectrum of businesses, and it is fantastic to hear we are being rated so highly.

"It is a tribute to the retailers of York. We have a large number of independent businesses and a great shopping experience in this city.

"Initiatives like free parking on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings has had an impact as we are seeing people using that, and we are currently planning what we can do make the most of Christmas this year."

City-centre retailer Nicholas Brown, managing director of Browns department store, which has a shop in Davygate, said early summer figures were positive, but trading has since been hit by a dip due to the World Cup.

He said: "Nationally collected retail figures generally show the further north you go the tougher it is. However York is proving to be an exception and a beacon for the area.

"We were well up for the year going in to the summer, but the three week period of the world cup took a bit of a bite out of it, especially in men's fashion as disposable income was re-allocated to going the pub or barbecues.

"Last week's figures figures were good though so it would appear we're returning to a healthy summer."