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Mary Queen of Mean?

Last night's Mary Queen of Shops on BBC2 made uncomfortable X-Factor style viewing.

Mary Portas, the star of the show, was overhauling Selkie, a womenswear boutique in York. Nothing unusual there (and nothing unusual with the results unfortunately).

But the show took a turn for the worse when Portas called around 20 fashion students based in the North for a reality show-style grilling.

Portas wanted Selkie's owner to choose four of the students to provide a capsule range of garments for Selkie's new boutique room and the students were more than happy to oblige.

It's widely accepted that our fashion colleges and universities don't always train fashion graduates in the ways of the commercial world but to subject them to and then broadcast cutting remarks about their designs to an audience of several million was an unnecessary. These are young people, some as young as 18, at the start of a career in the business. To sit and laugh and point as Portas and her less than credible fellow panelist Hamish Morrow did, was highly inappropriate and in very bad taste. These are the future designers of the industry and while they may be a bit rough round the edges, they need encouragement and constructive criticism, rather than a self-serving Simon Cowell-style bashing.

Meanwhile, Portas managed to kill off all of Selkie's quirky personality and put it head to head customer-wise with one of the best independents in the country, Sarah Coggles, which is situated just a few streets away. Time will tell how wise this move was.

Mary Queen of Shops appears to have descended into dreary old reality TV - we've had fighting and tears, accusations of size-ism, unnecessary begging for labels. And while this is normally explained away as to boost TV ratings, Mary Queen of Shops has actually been losing viewers (according to the TV trade magazine Broadcast). Last night 1.9 million people tuned in compared with 2.8m for the first episode of series two.

Good luck to Selkie, and all the other stars of the series but what a shame Portas has taken the show down this route.

What do you think about Selkie, the students and Mary Portas' new BBC2 series? Please share your views with us below.

Readers' comments (5)

  • darren hoggett

    While Mary Portas has had many valid points to make over the last few weeks, when compared to Series 1, the show has now become primarily about her and how wonderful she is. This aspect needs to be addressed if a further series is made.

    Although the clothing industry can be a wholly inefficient operation at the best of times, retailing is not an exact science and Portas does have a rather clinical and narrow perspective when it comes to revamping the stores she features, with an impression that trading to a younger market will instantly solve the problems that are featured, when in reality, the is far from the case.

    Portas would have an absolute fit if she visited our business. The reason we have been successful over many years is because we break all the rules - this has always given us the edge over our competitors. She would turn our business into all the other clone shops that exist in our City, losing our unique selling points because it wouldn't fit into the Portas model of doing things. She just wouldn't get it.

    Maria Portas does know a lot. But she doesn't know everything.

    Darren Hoggett
    J&B Menswear Limited/Norwich

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  • Its turning into the mary portas show. I am getting tired of a londoner with department store experience telling indies in towns how to run a shop. Give her a small department store in the outer hebrides and see how well her london style goes down then!!!! she would have a fit if she saw what real indies get up to to keep business booming!!!!!

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  • What I find quite difficult as a menswear indie in a small town is that without Mary's trade contacts, many of these boutiques wouldn't get the brands they end up with. I know that G-Star, Lyle and Scott et al would kill it in my town, but they aren't opening new accounts in my area. I find it hard to believe that Hackett would have opened a new account in the menswear store in Manchester without her magic wand... it therefore gives a false impression of the industry. Also we never hear about the nitty-gritty of minimum order requirements, refit budgets etc... we al know that correct store layout, lighting, changing room size etc is incredibly important, but on the edge of recession how many indies can afford it?

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  • We must not forget this is a TV programme. The challenge for MP is that week in week out she (and her production team) have to come up with new twists and turns. Otherwise the plot each week would just be:
    1) Business is in haven't got a clue. la la
    2) MP comes in and shows them the errors of their way (faces opposition from existing management/workers)
    3) They do up the store etc Management decides to let MP run riot.
    4) They have a launch party and jobs a goodun. Business is now ship shape.

    Personally, from a retail perspective its a bit dull now, and its just deteriorating into a retail version of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares (is it just me or does MP prance around like Gordon Ramsey with a wig on?)

    However helping out small indies should be commended, and hopefully it'll give people a few ideas about how to 'refresh' themselves in the stale 'clone' high street environment.

    David Joots - a great place for jewellery online :-)

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  • I found this weeks revisit programme painful to watch. I have great respect for MP (heard her talk @ summer fair in Excel) but she has just banged the nail into Ju Ju in Brighton.
    It reminded me of the revisit to Mooma Cheries Brighton by G Ramsey. That programme sent the restaurant into liquidation 12 mnths later.
    Post original show, we were directing visitors to Ju Ju all the time...they wanted to visit 'The shop on The Telly'. Ju Ju responded by delivering the 'Real Life Telly Experience' to those visitors. Sales boomed.
    Many of us in Brighton have become 'Museum Shops' delivering a unique Indie experience to visitors from Clone Town Land.
    If you know the difference then you will survive.
    Ju Ju may have been tripped up by the fact that the show is really about Mary Portas and her self promotion, dressed up in pseudo concern for Indie retailers.
    Issues such as margin (mark ups of X 2.7 are out the ark on todays rents....the chains get X 10 on most stock), high rents due to a Costa or Starbucks nearby plus all the other headaches don't get a look in on the she hasn't quite worked out a self promoting answer to those issues.
    MP needs to read some Felicity Lawrence ('Eat your heart out' just published) and swap food for clothing when reading about the economics of Oligopolies. That is the future of retailing. Guess she'll be right in there.

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