Blog: Is Mary Portas spreading herself too thin?

Petah Marian | 18 August 2011

Mary Portas has further complicated her position as self-professed saviour of the British high street today with the launch of a shop in House of Fraser targeting "grown-up women".

Indeed, Portas has been a busy lady, opening the concession just a few short months after being asked by the UK government in May to look at the problem of empty shops and how to prevent the growth of "clone towns" dominated by chain stores.

Would it not, perhaps, be fair to say that the House of Fraser, with its 61 department stores across the UK and a presence in out-of-town shopping parks, be described as one of those dreaded chain stores ruining our high streets?

The Mary Portas store may well fill a gap in the market - a well-curated high street offer for fashion-conscious women "of a certain age". It also includes collaborations between Portas & Clarks, Portas & Radley, Portas & Charnos, Portas & Playtex, as well as a range of jewellery and a product she calls "armery" - a rather strange item that looks like stockings for the arms, which she says will disguise those unflattering bingo-wings.

With Westfield and Matalan being just two of Portas' clients at her retail consultancy Yellow Door, she may bring a "life-time's experience in retail" to the government's task, but it would also be hard to argue that she will bring any kind of objectivity to the table.

I can only echo concerns outlined by other industry watchers earlier this year when I wonder if indeed she is the right woman to be guiding government strategy.

With her proposals set to be received in autumn by the government, we can only wonder what she might suggest, and who might be influencing her suggestions.


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