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Portas rings bell for retail class

Mary Portas, star of the BBC2 fashion retail makeover show Mary Queen of Shops, is to run a raft of retail courses in association with sector skills council Skillsmart Retail.

Portas’s workshops will cover the fundamental practices of running a retail business. Six ‘master classes’ will have themes including finance, visual merchandising, marketing and how to reignite vision and passion for the industry.

The courses will be piloted over the next few weeks at several of the training centres, or ‘Skills Shops’, which form the National Skills Academy for Retail which launched last week. The exact content is still to be finalised but the courses are aimed mainly at small businesses including independent retailers. Indies wishing to take part will be able to apply for grants to fund their place, available under the government’s Train to Gain leadership and management scheme.

Portas said: “When you look at our high street we are dominated by fairly large retail businesses, and there are a couple of things that are stopping indies.

“The first is rents and rates and the second is training. A good mix of larger and smaller retailers is what makes the high street great. I can’t do much about the rents, but I can try to help indies increase sales and really know the business of retail.”

Separately, a number of retail bosses have pledged support for a network of retail training centres around the UK as part of the launch of the National Skills Academy for Retail. John Lewis chairman Charlie Mayfield, House of Fraser chief executive John King, Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King and La Senza investor and star of BBC television series Dragons’ Den Theo Paphitis were among retailers who came together at a central London event last week to support the launch of 18 retail training centres which will form the first part of the academy.

The Skills Shops will be walk-in centres at shopping and retail locations across the UK.For more information on the Mary Portas courses or the National Skills Academy for Retail, call Skillsmart Retail on 020 7462 5060.

Skills Shops locations

  • Cheshire Oaks Retail Academy
  • Derby Retail Skills Shop
  • Devon Retail Skills
  • Greater Birmingham Retail Skills Shop, Solihull
  • Hawk Retail Academy, Twickenham, London
  • Heathrow Retail Academy
  • Kings Lynn Retail Skills Shop
  • Lakeside Training Centre The Learning Shop, Bluewater
  • Leeds Retail Skills Academy
  • Newcastle upon Tyne Skills Shop
  • Preston Retail Skills Shop
  • Retail Links, Hampshire Skills Shop
  • Retail Skills Centre, Leicester
  • Skillscentre: MK, Milton Keynes
  • The Source, Meadowhall, Sheffield
  • UK Career Centre, Manchester
  • Wembley Skills Shop

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