BOURNEMOUTH’S retail and leisure industries are among the fastest-growing in the UK, a report suggests.

The consumer sector employed 22,100 people and was worth £320million in gross value added (GVA) in the last quarter of 2017.

A 2.6 rise in GVA makes the “city” area around Bournemouth the ninth fastest-growing consumer economy in the country, according to the Consumer Powerhouse report on the sector. The study was produced by law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Southampton was 12th, with consumer sector growth of 2.4 per cent in the same period.

Hannah Clipston, partner at Irwin Mitchell’s Southampton office, said: “This latest report on the consumer sector makes very positive reading for both Southampton and Bournemouth, but hints at a more worrying situation for the sector in Portsmouth.

“As we can see throughout this report, the consumer sector continues to be a key driver for economic growth in our region and in the UK generally.

“The sector is facing significant disruption, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Generally, the sector is growing at a steady rate, consumer confidence is on the rise and consumers have more disposable income to spend on themselves.

“Having said that complacency is not an option for consumer businesses who must ensure that: they understand what consumers want; their brand is strong and aligned with their strategic objectives; and they continue to innovate and adapt to remain relevant to the new consumer.”

The upbeat news comes despite troubles in the retail trade, including difficult trading for retailers such as New Look, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer.

Bournemouth council leader Cllr John Beesley said the figures chimed with local data.

As of June 10, footfall in 2018 was up 13.4 per cent year-on-year in the town centre. That followed a rise of 15.2 per cent in 2016-17.

Across the south west, footfall was down 3.2 per cent, and UK coastal towns it was down 5.35 per cent overall.

Cllr Beesley said there had also been 50 shop openings in Bournemouth from 2016-18. “There are brands coming in that we’ve always aspired to have but never succeeded with,” he added.

Cllr Philip Broadhead, the council’s cabinet member for the economy, said: “Barely a day goes by without us seeing statistics showing Bournemouth is up in various sectors. That’s all very positive and we’ve just got to balance the localised challenges.”