The "John Lewis effect" has attracted businesses to fill empty units in Exeter, making it one of the ten best performing cities in the country.
The city came in at number nine in a table of cities nationally with the lowest number of empty shops, at one in ten.
It also bucked the national trend by recording a drop in the number of empty units, of 0.7% over the past 12 months.
Derek Phillips, vice-president of Exeter's Chamber of Commerce, said the city was in a strong position, despite the bleak picture elsewhere.
He attributed a portion of the success to the long-awaited department store, which will open next month.
He said: "Exeter has ridden the recession far better than many other cities in the South West, and that – coupled with the obvious John Lewis effect with the store getting very close to opening – has encouraged local, national and international retailers to seek a position in Exeter.
"We're in an extremely good position at the moment."