Middlesbrough’s consumer sector is one of the best performing in the UK according to an influential new report.

The strong showing puts the city heart of the Tees Valley ahead of nearby cities, and above other cities up and down the UK.

The 2018 UK Consumer Powerhouse report – produced by solicitors Irwin Mitchell in partnership with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) – highlights the consumer sector as a key driver for economic growth.

And in a series of measures comparing the fortunes of more than 40 cities, Middlesbrough’s vibrant and diverse city centre economy stands out as one of the UK’s star performers.

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 a series of tables gauging the health of a key sector covering retail, leisure, tourism and food and drink.

In her foreword, CBI Director General Carolyn Fairbairn points to the overall resilience of the consumer sector – worth £400 billion in 2017 –  with GVA (gross value added) growth of 1.5% and employment growth of 1% across the 44 cities under the spotlight.

By comparison Middlesbrough’s consumer sector GVA growth rate of 3% was the second-highest recorded in the UK in Q4 2017, with the town placed only marginally behind best performer Bristol.

Middlesbrough also recorded strong employment growth of 2.6% within the sector, with the report also predicting a rise to 2.9% by the fourth quarter of 2018.

The town’s consumer sector GVA growth rate in Q4 2018 is also forecast to be one of the strongest in the UK at 2.7%.

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 Mayor Dave Budd said: “This enormously encouraging report confirms and underlines what we already know about our city centre.

“We clearly laid out our ambition for city-scale investment and development in our Investment Prospectus and that strategy is already bearing fruit.

“These figures are the clearest indication possible that our vision is delivering tangible, sustainable results.

“This hasn’t happened overnight but is the result of years of hard work, ambitious forward thinking and innovative partnerships.

“We continue to work with the commercial and retail sectors to re-balance and strengthen our city centre economy, and developments like those at Centre Square and the Tees Advanced Manufacturing Park will add yet more employment and footfall.

“This is an exciting time in Middlesbrough’s history, and there is a great deal more to come.”