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Mary Portas offers indie masterclass

Retail guru Mary Portas has called on independents to restore service and business knowledge to retailing, after launching a training programme with Skillsmart Retail last week.

Speaking at the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London, Portas said indies lacked the training infrastructure offered by multiple retailers and that the tie-up with Skillsmart Retail, the national skills council for the retail industry, would help to bring back a “lost cultural ethos of service”.

She said: “Some independents don’t know the fundamentals of retailing, like sell-through and sales per sq ft. But I speak to them like I would a multiple retailer because that’s the competition. Multiples have global, trained specialists but some independents don’t even read the relevant [business] magazines. It all comes down to training.”

The Mary Portas Guide to Successful Retailing programme launched last week at the National Skills Academy for Retail’s nationwide pop-up skills shops, of which there are 20 nationwide. The masterclasses, which will run indefinitely, cover seven areas of expertise from buying, merchandising and marketing to finance and servicing. Each class costs £200 plus VAT.

Portas added that indies must adapt their businesses to suit the changing nature of the consumer, who she said is buying less but with more thought. “We’re seeing a more thoughtful and savvy consumer who compares product and price,” she said. “And all independents should embrace the internet.”

Of the seven masterclasses, Portas said ‘My Shop, My Future’ stands out. “People forget why they’re doing this,” she said. “What is the strategic vision of your business? So many indies lose focus. If we can bring back knowledge, service, experience and vision, then independents have a chance on the high street.”

Asked what advice she would give to businesses starting out today, Portas said that good retailing is “about the senses”. “You have to create an incredible lifestyle,” she added.

To find out more about the programme and to book a place on a masterclass, telephone 08449 670272 or email

Readers' comments (1)

  • I've been trying to book myself on this for the best part of year, still no luck. Lots of random emails repeating themselves and then despite not confirming my place in the first place, they then rang to tell me the course I was booked on was cancelled

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