Indies have welcomed the high-profile appointment of Mary Portas to lead a government review into the future of the high street, but the self-proclaimed Queen of Shops has admitted to underestimating the size of the task.
TV personality and branding consultant Portas has met to “brainstorm” with planners and associations to understand the difficulties facing the high street.
Portas said: “I really have underestimated the size of the job. It is huge.”
She will highlight up to four key issues and look at different business models before reporting back on her initial findings to Prime Minister David Cameron in November.
Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive and communications director of the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), said the association supported the appointment: “The plight of the high street needs public attention.”
He added that Portas needed “hard facts” and that BIRA had put key issues to her including the impact of out-of-town schemes, parking and high business rates.
Weedon added: “One size does not fit all. She needs to concentrate on providing the long-term answers. It is not a 24-hour news story.”
Portas, who has been criticised for rapping the knuckles of multiples as part of her Secret Shopper TV series, said she would formulate a model where multiples and indies could work together.
Mark Bage, owner of York premium indie Sarah Coggles, said Portas was the “right person for the job. Because she’s a celebrity she will focus the media’s attention”.
Janine Dewey, owner of O’Keefe of Esher in Surrey, added that Portas has “the name and the support so I think she’ll have a jolly good go at it”.
Deryane Tadd, owner of womenswear boutique The Dressing Room in St Albans, said: “She needs to remember that you need indies, multiples and then cafes and restaurants. A good mix is imperative.”
John Reid, co-founder of designer indie Garment Quarter in Bristol, said Portas’s appointment “creates positive spin for the Government” but increases the chances of action. “It’s got people talking,” he said.
Pamela Shiffer, owner of two-store womenswear indie Pamela Shiffer in north London, said: “Can she implement serious change, or is this just the Government being seen to do the right thing?”