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Central Business District

The economy of Leeds is diverse, with the service sector now dominating over the traditional manufacturing industries. It is the location of one of the largest financial centres in England outside London. New tertiary industries such as retail, call centres, offices and media have contributed to a high rate of economic growth. Leeds was voted 'Britain's Best City for Business' by Omis Research in 2003 but dropped to 3rd place behind Manchester and Glasgow in 2005 ("Relative under-performance over the past two years in transport improvements and cost competitiveness were the major contributing factors"). It is also regarded by some as one of the fastest growing cities in the UK.[1][2][3]

Leeds' growth has helped to change the economic geography of the United Kingdom, as Leeds is now one of the largest financial centres in England outside the capital.[4] New tertiary industries such as retail, call centres, offices and media have contributed to a high rate of economic growth since the early 1990s. Leeds was successful in becoming the first British city to have full broadband and digital coverage during the dot-com bubble, enabling it to become one of the key hubs in the emerging new media sector. Companies such as Freeserve, Energis, Sportal, TEAMtalk, and Ananova emerged from Leeds to dominate the UK internet industry. Now, over 33% of the UK's internet traffic passes through Leeds,[5][6] making it one of the most important regional internet centres in the UK.

Over 124,000 people work in financial and business services in Leeds, the largest number of any UK city outside London.[7][8] The strength of the economy is also indicated by the low unemployment rate. Although Leeds' economy has boomed in recent years, the prosperity has not spread to all parts of the city. Many areas south and east of central Leeds remain deprived, although are slowly starting to benefit from inward investment. Previously deprived areas have benefited from the economic growth such as Chapeltown and Kirkstall.



Christmas shopping on King Edward Street.

Leeds has an extensive and diverse range of shops and department stores, and has been described by the Lonely Planet guides as the 'Knightsbridge of the North'.[9] The diverse range of shopping facilities, from individual one-off boutiques to large department stores such as Harvey Nichols and Louis Vuitton outlets, has greatly expanded the Leeds retail base. The Victoria Quarter, several existing arcades connected together by roofing the entirety of Queen Victoria Street with stained glass, is located off Briggate, Leeds' main shopping street. Other popular shopping attractions include Leeds Kirkgate Market, Granary Wharf, Leeds Shopping Plaza, Headrow Shopping Centre, The Light, The St John's Centre, The Merrion Centre Leeds, Birstall Retail Park and the White Rose Centre.

In addition, the proposed Eastgate Quarters will enlarge the shopping area significantly, and is due to be anchored by John Lewis and a second Marks and Spencer store for the city. The Trinity Quarter is a large shopping development under construction that is expected to open in 2010. It is a part redevelopment of a run-down part of the city centre, and part re-modelling of the existing Leeds Shopping Plaza.


Leeds has received several accolades in the field of tourism; including being voted by Condé Nast Traveler magazine Readers' Awards as the "UK's favourite city" in 2004, "Best English city to visit outside London" in 2005, and also "Visitor city of the year" by The Good Britain Guide in 2005. Situated close to the UK's geographical centre, the city benefits from good transport connections with the M1 running from Leeds to London, the M62 connecting Leeds with Manchester and the seaport cities of Hull and Liverpool, and the A1(M) for linking to the north. Leeds Bradford International Airport is a rapidly growing regional UK airport, with an 87 per cent growth in terminal passenger numbers in the last five years.[10][11] Over 450 weekly flights connect the city to over 70 major European business and holiday destinations.[12]

Tourism in Leeds is estimated to support over 20 full time equivalent jobs, and on average Leeds attracts around 1.5 million people annually who stay overnight, plus a further 10 million who visit on day trips.[13] Visitors to the city bring nearly £735 million into the local economy each year. Major national and regional attractions include the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds Art Gallery, the Henry Moore Institute and the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Leeds is also the only city outside London to have both its own opera and ballet companies – Opera North and Northern Ballet Theatre, both internationally renowned.

Financial and professional services

Infirmary Street, in the heart of the business district.
The Bank of England on King Street.

Leeds is one of the largest business centres in the United Kingdom, around a quarter of a million people are employed in the financial and professional sector in the Leeds City Region with an output valued at £13bn per year.[14] Financial and professional services are largely based around the traditional business quarter in the city centre, as well as the newer area along the South bank of the River Aire.[15] Many smaller legal and professional firms occupy the smaller Georgian office buildings around Park Square, while many banks and insurance underwriters are set around Park Row and East Parade. First Direct have their headquarters some distance from the main business districts in the industrial Stouton area.[16]

Unlike many comparable Northern cities, Leeds had a mixed economy throughout the latter half of the Twentieth Century and so did not suffer the same industrial decline as other cities. The service sector of the economy flourished in the 2000s, with legal, accounting, consultancy, banking, insurance and recruitment firms moving to the city. In 2002 it was estimated that 38,000 new jobs would be created in Leeds over the next ten years, and most would be in the financial services sector.[17]

Companies with regional or national offices in Leeds, include KPMG, Norwich Union, First Direct, Lloyds Banking Group (Lloyds TSB), Lloyds Banking Group (HBOS), Allied Irish Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Leeds Building Society, Alliance and Leicester, Yorkshire Bank, Zurich Financial Services and Direct Line. [18] [19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30] There are further financial institutions within the Leeds City Region with Yorkshire Building Society and Bradford and Bingley offices in Bradford and further HBOS offices in Halifax.

The Bank of England, who have their headquarters on Threadneedle Street in London, have their second offices on King Street in the heart of Leeds' business quarter.[31]

The Financial crisis of 2007–2010 lead to the shedding of jobs within this sector, as banks, both retail and investment. A report produced in December 2008 predicted 28,000 jobs would be lost in Leeds, throughout the course of the recession, with many in the financial sector. The report however also predicted that other boroughs within the Leeds City Region would bear the brunt of job losses more than the city. A report produced in January 2009, stated that there was a possibility that employment in the financial sector in Leeds would not return to its previous levels with fears that 'Companies could be attracted by lower rent in other cities like Sheffield or Liverpool when recovery begins'.[32]

Both the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University have established business schools, their presence being supported by businesses in the curt.[33][34]


Leeds is situated on the M1, the M62 and the A1(M) connecting it with cities to the North, South, East and West. Leeds railway Station is one of Network Rails fourteen principal stations and has rail links to London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and other major cities. Leeds has no mass transit system, the previously proposed Leeds Supertram was axed during the early stages of construction following the escalation of costs, the Leeds Trolleybus has since been proposed as an alternative, running the same route. Leeds is served by Leeds Bradford International Airport, with connections to most major European cities. Notably Leeds' lacks an air connection to Heathrow (instead being linked to Gatwick) and Frankfurt. Although a railway line lies close to the airport, only buses connect it with the city centre.


Bridgewater Place also known as 'The Dalek' taken in September 2007

In recent times Leeds has seen many new developments, with high rise schemes making a much larger mark on Leeds' skyline. Sixteen skyscrapers are currently under construction or proposed, all of them taller than West Riding House (262 ft/80 m) — Leeds' tallest building from 1972–2005.[35] Bridgewater Place, known locally as 'The Dalek',[36] recently became the tallest building in Leeds. A taller building, the 561-foot (171 m) Lumiere building was planned to be finished by 2012 but building work has been put on hold as of 9 July 2008 owing to the state of the world economy.[37] The plan for even taller 'Kissing Towers' of Criterion Place has been scrapped for similar reasons.[38] Since postponing any further work on Lumiere, the developers have applied to Leeds City Council for the development to be revised, making it taller than the current proposals.


This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Leeds at current basic prices published (pp.240-253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added4 Agriculture1 Industry2 Services3
1995 8,713 43 2,652 6,018
2000 11,681 32 2,771 8,878
2003 13,637 36 3,018 10,583


  • Note 1: includes hunting and forestry
  • Note 2: includes energy and construction
  • Note 3: includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
  • Note 4: Components may not sum to totals due to rounding


  1. ^ "Usatoday.Com". Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  2. ^ "Leeds and Yorkshire | University of Leeds". Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  3. ^ "Home :: Leeds Financial Services Initiative". Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  4. ^ "Leeds Economy Handbook 2007 - Sectors". 
  5. ^ Sovereign Publications. "Leeds Development Agency". Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  6. ^ "Leeds Development Agency - Business International". Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  7. ^ "Leeds Financial Facts and Figures". Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  8. ^ "Northern Star". FDI Magazine. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  9. ^ "City is 'Knightsbridge of North'". BBC News Online. BBC. 24 May 2005. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  10. ^ "Civil Aviation Authority Home Page". Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  11. ^ "AIRPORTA01.xls" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  12. ^ "LBIA - Leeds Bradford International Airport". Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  13. ^ Leeds Live It Love It website
  14. ^ Financial Leeds - Connect with Leeds City Region
  15. ^ QandA - What are the main industries of Leeds
  16. ^ First Direct - Help and Support, contact us
  17. ^ BBC News - Manufacturing and service worries
  18. ^ Hemscott - KPMG Corporate Finance Leeds
  19. ^ UK Business Park - Norwich Union
  20. ^ First Direct - jobs
  21. ^ Sketch up google - 6-7 Park Row
  22. ^ HBOS - Leeds
  23. ^ Leeds Online - Allied Irish Bank (GB)
  24. ^ City Visitor - Leeds Banks (RBS, East Parade, Leeds)
  25. ^ Sketch up google - HSBC House
  26. ^ Leeds Building Society - About us
  27. ^ Leodis - Fairfax House, Merrion Street (description)
  28. ^ Pilkington - Yorkshire Bank Headquarters, Leeds
  29. ^ Leeds Online - Zurich Offices, East Parade
  30. ^ Leeds Online - Direct Line House
  31. ^ Leeds Online - Bank of England
  32. ^ Yorkshire Post - City's financial industry jobs 'may have gone forever'
  33. ^ University of Leeds - Business School
  34. ^ - Leeds Metropolitan University - Faculty of Business and Law
  35. ^ "Search results : United Kingdom > Yorkshire and Humber > Leeds". Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  36. ^ "Building - 734 - Bridgewater Place - Leeds". Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  37. ^ "Lumiere is shelved". Yorkshire Evening Post. 10 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  38. ^ "Skyscrapers axed as market slides". BBC News Online. BBC. 18 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 

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