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Mary Portas stars in Save Our Shops documentary

Retail guru Mary Portas will star in a BBC 2 programme called “Mary Portas: Save Our Shops” tonight.

Mary Portas looks at how the recession is threatening high streets and independent retailers up and down the country and asks what can be done to halt the number of shop closures around the UK in an hour-long programme at 9pm tonight. Up to 35,000 shops could close this year according to a report by Experian.

Portas also takes on her biggest challenge to date, aiming to save not just a single store but the entire town centre of Tewkesbury.

The programme also features an interview with John Lewis chairman Charlie Mayfield.

Check for a review of the programme tomorrow.

We want to hear comments from our readers on what can be done to help prevent shops closures too. Email with your views.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Martin Ailion

    A visible public campaign is needed to curtail Out Of Town retail developments whilst at the same time encouraging the public to return to the independent High Street. City and Town centres also need to be more inviting and finally, Landlords should be encouraged, by the Government, if necessary, to accept and tempt more independent retailers with affordable rents.

    Martin Ailion

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  • It is sad that Mary Portas signed off the show by saying “for the smaller independent retailers, I don’t think there is anyone there who is going to lend them a hand”. Thankfully for the many increasingly desperate shops out there, this is not the case.

    At Skillsmart Retail, Sector Skills Council for Retail, we believe that the launch of the National Skills Academy for Retail, a network of retail training centres or ‘skills shops’ located on high streets and in shopping centres across the UK, offers a solution. Designed to help support both successful and struggling retailers, the National Skills Academy for Retail skills shops offer free advice and access to a range of services, including forthcoming retail masterclasses for independents.

    In attendance at the launch event for the National Skills Academy for Retail was Charlie Mayfield, a vocal supporter of the concept and, incidentally, contributor to the programme. In his speech at the launch, the Chairman of John Lewis, said: “It’s absolutely the right time for businesses to be investing in skills”. And he couldn’t be more right. Recent UKCES research has revealed that companies investing in the skills of their workforce are 2.5 times more likely to survive than those who do not.

    Also in the show, Sainsbury’s boss Justin King explained how his supermarket chain has battled the downturn by cutting prices and adding value. But part of the reason Sainsbury's growth has outstripped most of its rivals must also be attributed to its excellent, structured and comprehensive training offer. At Skillsmart Retail’s recent Parliamentary Reception, King spoke passionately about it, saying: ”We have posted good results recently and one of the reasons for this, we believe, is investing in quality and having that consistent offer to customers. Investing in people is exactly the same. Organisations that continue to invest in training will be rewarded with loyalty and hard work”.

    As one of the Tewkesbury retailers said in the programme: “We get back as much as we put into it”. In these tough times, your local skills shop can help you put more in, making a connection to the training that could help you survive and thrive. Independent retailers in need of help in the recession should visit to find their local skills shop and discover how they can get help for their business.

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  • Whilst the above is all ver worthy when written down, it is also very waffly and the writer doesn't seem to have any idea of the problems facing Indie retailers from avery sector over the past decade.
    A skills course isn't going to save indie retail areas.
    Lower rents (not valued against the Starbucks/Costa in the location) would help.

    Indies work on much smaller margins. The gap between cost of product and sale price is far smaller than a chain competitor.
    Therefore they cannot pay as high rent.....the rents being set by the big boys on the area.

    To say that Sainsburies dominates because it invest in skills is a smokescreen. The big supermarkets dominate as they push suppliers to the bone, kill out any local competition..but that's OK, they invest in 'Skills' for their, predominantly, 4 hour contract, min wage staff.

    Same with the chain clothing stores, many working on mark ups of X 5, X 6 or even more.

    I haven't met a supplier who can supply an Indie boutique with a 6 times mark up.

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  • As others including Mary have said independants need cheap, affordable overheads including rent and rates. But they also need to be independant and stock brands that the multiples don't. How can an indy with 4 styles of a brand compete with a multiple with 24 styles. Brands either need to supply independants or multiples, not try to be all things to all men. Look in any shopping centre and every menswear shop sells the same brands - how can a shop on an affordable side street sell the same labels. Once upon a time independants would want exclusivity for what they stocked and style counted more than brand - a return to that policy would definitely help.

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