Mary Portas has warned that she is not yet convinced Britain’s high streets have a future - a surprising statement from the woman who has been hired by David Cameron to come up with a plan to rescue the fortunes of the country’s shopping streets - but added that she believes community centres and workplaces could help fix the retail industry’s challenges.
In an interview with The Financial Times today Portas said: “For it [the high street] not to be the heartbeat of a town would be really tragic…But it might be the case.”
Portas added that she was unlikely to recommend that the government attempt to recreate the high streets of old. She said: “The thing is, is it just about shops?”
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Portas interview came just days after one of the most difficult weeks for retailers for decades, which witnessed the collapse of both Jane Norman and TJ Hughes. She warned that the high street was likely to have changed beyond recognition.
“Is it really creating the high street back to the way it was? I dont think for a minute it will be. can’t sit here and say yes, we are going to create and get all this lovely mix of independents back, when actually that may not be pertinent, relevant or what the consumers need or want in the future.”
Portas said she planned to meet large-scale retailers to discuss how they can work with independents.
She said: “I believe that if I’m a major player, a major supermarket, and by turning up in a town and selling everything possible under one roof…what will happen is that town will lose the independent retailers and its flavour and its uniqueness.”
“I think it’s more beneficial for me to help them, work with them, to create something that is what the consumer wants, which is a great mix rather than this drive-in super business that does everything their own way.”