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Queen of Shops wields real power

Caroline Nodder

Mary Portas is a bit like Marmite in the fashion retail world.

Mary Portas is a bit like Marmite in the fashion retail world. You either love her or hate her. And while projecting herself as the champion of the small independent operator, she’s not exactly endeared herself to some of the bigger players on the high street. She made waves with many of the multiples when she conducted her own spot checks as part of her Secret Shopper TV show, and with indies by championing charity shops.

But love or loathe her, there is no denying that her iconic bob and straight-talking ways have made her a household name. And so it was no huge surprise when David Cameron unveiled plans last week for her to front efforts to revamp the UK’s high streets (see p3). But is it going to help fashion businesses? There are some massive issues affecting the high street, ranging from cut-throat competition on price forcing many smaller players out, to high rents and a lack of parking.

There is no magic bullet and it also remains unclear whether Cameron is going to put his money where his mouth is when Portas does submit her plan. The UK’s high streets have moved on since the 1950s and you’re simply not going to see them repopulated entirely by small family-run indies.

But what does need to happen is for the economics to support a much greater mix of businesses to offer the consumer more choice. Yes we need support for the indies, and there is no doubt many indies have high hopes for this project. But we also need to recognise the place of larger fashion businesses, who are major employers and vital to the UK economy. Can Portas solve this interesting conundrum and come up with some genuinely workable, balanced solutions?

To do so she will need input from all of you - email me at caroline.nodder@emap.com with your views and I will endeavour to pass them on.

Caroline Nodder Editor-in-chief

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