The high street is the centre of our local areas and often our social lives

It’s where we gather to eat, drink, shop and socialise.

However, in recent years the landscape of our local high streets has been changing.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) commissioned Populus to survey perceptions around what the  ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ outlets on our high streets are for their report, Health on the High Street: Running on empty. Based on Populus research, RSPH classified ‘unhealthy’ as outlets such as payday lenders, bookmakers, tanning salons and fast food outlets, whereas ‘healthy’ outlets were leisure centres, health services, libraries, museums, art galleries, pubs and coffee shops.

The majority of the public shows a willingness to support their local retailers

Increasingly, we are spending more time online to fulfil our social and commercial needs. The Royal Society for Public Health reports that the rise of online shops has been placing pressure on the physical high street retailer. Despite the rise of the online shopping platforms, Populus found that there is significant consensus in supporting high street retailers:

The rise of the coffee shop

High streets used to be the epicentre of our social interaction, and a key part of this is cafés and coffee shops. The BBC reported on this research and noted that this research highlights how quickly British High Streets are changing, with the increase of coffee shops, vape shops, and boarded-up premises.

The majority, 74%, of the public believe that cafes and coffee shops, including chains as well as independent cafes, encourage social interaction. Previous Populus research on the rise and fall of reputation of high street food and drink explores how consumers feel about high-street fast food names, there was some variation in how consumers perceived coffee shops.

The results

The RSPH’s report ranked 70 of the largest towns and cities across the UK as well as looking across 146 London High Streets. See the results below:

RSPH, ‘The Results’, Health on the High Street: Running on Empty

Find out more about the Royal Society for Public Health’s campaign here.


Populus conducted 2106 online interviews with a nationally representative sample of UK respondents aged 18+ to survey perceptions around high street outlets. Interviews took place online between the 23rd May and 24th May 2018 with quotas set on age, gender and region and data weighted to the known profile of the UK. Additionally, Populus conducted 2093 online interviews, between the 17th Oct and 18th Oct 2018, with a nationally representative sample of UK respondents aged 18+ to survey perceptions around high street and online outlets.

View the full data tables here.

Populus is a full service research and strategy consultancyWe unlock the Critical Knowledge that brands need to better understand the world around us. We add value to our findings by applying expert analysis to uncover clear, actionable insight. Find out more by calling 020 7253 9900 or emailing