Figures released last week show Kingston has shot up the national ranking of shopping centres from 19th to 11th place, but remains third in Greater London after the West End and Bromley.

A 'vitality score' put together by information company Experian and based on factors such as vacant shops shows Kingston has improved by six per cent between 1998 and 2000.

But town centre manager Julie Grail said she was suspicious of the figures, as her recollection was that Kingston was 14th, not 19th in 1998 with a score of 234 with Bromley just ahead and that the figures didn't add up.

"We suspected that Bluewater would hit us and we would feel about a one per cent impact but there is no evidence of that whatsoever," she said.

"I had been led to believe that Bromley had been hit by Bluewater because it is only 20 minutes away We have experienced a definite increase over that period although we had a quiet period for about eight months last year, although that has to be seen against a decline elsewhere."

Retail is the town centre's biggest employer, responsible for 12,000 jobs and attracts between around 400,000 shoppers a week.