M ary Portas is in fighting mode. She's always been a fair old scrapper, but now she's going to give 'em both barrels. It's hard to know who "they" are exactly politicians, press, rivals with vested interests, pessimists, doom-mongers, naysayersbut I do know I wouldn't fancy being them.
Three years ago the self-appointed queen of shops was appointed the government's high-street tsar. It was a canny move on behalf of the coalition. Portas appeared to be a natural Tory — somebody who had pulled herself up
Mary portas high street review report dating her own designer laces, overcome adversity to succeed in business, a rock star Maggie Thatcher for the 21st century.
The omnipresent Portas couldn't put a foot wrong — TV star, retail expert, fashion designer, corporate image revamper extraordinaire. She could lend some of her ineffable cool to a coalition in dire need of it.
And if it all went tits up, well they could always blame her …. Which some might say is just what has happened. Portas, Mary portas high street review report dating, duly produced her reports. It was a strange mix of hubris and flannel.
And sure enough, the criticism came — the scheme was arrogant, window-dressing, under-funded; Portas was using Mary portas high street review report dating to advance her own career; she was making money from television shows based on work she said she was doing for government for free; she'd not visited some pilots; more shops than ever were closing, and on it went.
Now Portas has had enough. She's produced her own report on her report, illustrating exactly what she has done with her projects. She knows that not everything is rosy, but there are some success stories, and if she doesn't blow her own trumpet, who will? At the same time, while Portas is stressing her bond with local communities, she is distancing herself from party politics.
We meet at her agency in London, where she employs 50 people. As soon as you walk in, you bask in the glow of superior branding. It's open-plan and populated by trendy young people.
On tables that look like dachshunds long and low, with stumpy legs magazines are carefully laid out — Retail Week, Tate Guide, Marketing Week. Book shelves are piled high with New London Style. A notice by the front desk says: Please ring the bell and someone will pop around. The agency used to be known as Yellowdoor. But it's gone the way of all things Mary.
It's adopted her name. Her shows carry her name, her fashion line in House of Fraser, and now whole towns. At times, England seems little more than an extension of project Portas. Within seconds, I have been greeted by name by an efficient and charming woman who fetches me tea. A minute later another efficient, charming woman delivers me to Portas. We climb the stairs and reach a sun-blitzed office where Portas is having her photograph taken.
The Mary portas high street review report dating is colour co-ordinated with Portas — orange kettle, orange toaster, framed photograph of Vivienne Westwood with bright, orange hair. The photographer asks her to put her hands in her pockets. Her black schnoodle, Walter, is lying by her side. She's warmer and quieter than she comes across on TV. On makeover shows such as hers, you have to be a know-all.
In the Mary Queen of Shops series, she can be funny, scathing and supercilious. She bustles around in power boots telling useless retailers that they have no passion, ability, flair, NOTHING, and then gives them a hug and tells them everything will be all right. In one show about the Chorlton-based men's outfitter Burt's, she announces that Mousy Mike "is only happy selling to his fellow comb-overs She takes him Mary portas high street review report dating a haircut, shaves his Hitler tache and he morphs into Magnificent Mike although the shop has subsequently shut.
There are triumph-over tragedy stories — after Mary's sprinkled her magic dust, business bucks up. And that is part of the Portas controversy — in real life, her critics says, the truth is not always so obliging. I haven't ever voted Tory. You try changing Wikipedia! But she seemed happy to get into bed with Cameron's coalition?
Ah, she says, that's the misconception about her work as tsar. Deep down I'm a bit of a hippy. I believe in love! And I will work whatever way to make that happen. And who would not want to help the high street, she asks. It has nothing to do with politics for me. For all that she has found working in communities over the past three years invigorating, she's found negotiating with politicians frustrating and even humiliating.
Last September she appeared before the Communities and Local Government select committee after Bill Grimsey, the former boss of Wickes and Iceland, criticised the Portas pilot scheme for "promising the earth but delivering little". She looked devastated, as she addressed the committee — here she was trying to do her bit to help and she was being pilloried. Today, she says, she still doesn't understand their attitude.
What is that about? No, she said, she wished "Mary portas high street review report dating" had. She is still hurt by the accusation.
I actually put an open letter out, saying I misinterpreted it, here's the truth. You're in there for an hour and a half. The truth of it is I don't lie, I just don't lie. That was just horrible.
Anyway, she says, quickly regaining her composure, even if it had been true, what of it? What's that got to do with this?
That's why, honestly, I say to you, Simon, I don't want to give it the oxygen because I'm just coming out of this. She admits it got to "Mary portas high street review report dating." I can't describe it another way. The only other time she says she felt grey was in her teens, when her parents died. Her mother was diagnosed with encephalitis in her 50s and was dead within two weeks.
Her father, until then a busy salesman, went into decline. He sat in the front room, listening to old records, weeping for his wife. A year later he told Mary, then 17, that he had met another woman and was going to live with her. Six months on, he sold Mary portas high street review report dating house his children lived in, and they were left homeless. Was his second marriage good for him?
No, he didn't die happy, silly old sod. Portas's backstory really is quietly heroic. She turned down a place at Rada drama school to bring up her younger brother. She would cry on her way to school, and cry on her way back, but she didn't know she was depressed. She endured, and by her early 20s she was married and dressing windows for Harrods. Before she was 30, she had rebranded Harvey Nichols and was on its board, and in she established her agency, Yellowdoor.
In between this she has had three children — two with her former husband, Graham Portas, and a one-year-old son with her civil partner, Melanie Rickey.
Yes, she says, she's taken the dramatic changes in her life in her stride, and has been lucky to enjoy two happy, and different relationships. That is why her recent experience with politics has come as such a jolt. Has the backlash dented her confidence?
Yeah, I never had it until this. Her friends have told her to walk away, that she's done more than enough. But she's not having any of it. Yes, she's tired of being passed from politician to politician, Mary portas high street review report dating that doesn't mean she's shutting up. Anyway, she says there are success stories. How brilliant is that? Would she do anything differently? Funnily enough, I bumped into Ed Miliband in the park and I said there's a big opportunity to do things across parties, and he said: Does she think any of the criticisms of her work have been fair?
Last week it was reported that nine out of 16 shops featured in Mary Queen of Shops have shut.
I think that's a bloody good result. Does she ever wonder why she agreed to be shops tsar? If I think something can change and I can affect change, then I'll do it. As for national politics, she's realised it's not her bag.
Retail authority: Mary Portas fronted BBC TV's 'Mary Queen of Of primary concern is a focus on reforming an out-of-date business rates policy that is strangling high streets. A comprehensive review of business rates is now required. Technology Report: UK Consumers Hungry to Track Delivery.
TV retail expert Mary Portas said it was too late to save every high will review the report and respond next spring, adding: "The high street. our Communities: the Government's Response to the Mary Portas Review vision for the future of their high streets and putting their energy Mary portas high street review report dating Putting in place a streamlined process to revoke out-of-date, archaic and . Retailers should report on their support of local high streets in their annual report.