YORK is a top city in so many ways that any poll placing it second from bottom comes as a shock.

So business, tourism and political leaders in the city will be closely scrutinising the table of leading shopping centres, which places York at a lowly number 19 - behind Hull, Leeds, Reading and Stoke-on-Trent, among others.

The Venuescore survey ranked 20 places in terms of what they offered as a chain store destination. This method of scoring obviously did York few favours yet it does illuminate the city's strengths and weaknesses.

It is true that York is still lacking the sort of modern, high-quality chain stores that can attract visitors. This is why the new survey revives all the old arguments about what should be done to develop Coppergate and Piccadilly.

Uncertainty still surrounds the development of these key commercial areas, following the rejection of the £60 million Coppergate II development by a Government planning inspector.

Many shoppers, especially those thinking of visiting the city for a day or a weekend, will be attracted by big name stores. There is a possibility, for instance, that John Lewis could come to York sometime after 2008 and this would be an enticement to would-be tourists.

For all that, York is also a highly individual city, with many one-off shops and stores absent from other cities, where all high streets can seem blandly the same.

Combine all this with the city's great history and you have what remains a richly rewarding attraction.

But York cannot stand still and needs to be thinking of ways to attract more quality chain stores.

Updated: 10:28 Thursday, March 24, 2005