Portas bid to save high street slammed

Published on: 2nd September 2013

Attempts by Mary Portas to rejuvenate Britain’s ailing high streets have been criticised as “nostalgic” and “foolish” by a respected retail chief.Mary-Portas300

Bill Grimsey, the former boss of DIY chain Wilkes and supermarket group Iceland, said Miss Portas’s rescue scheme, which has been in effect for almost two years, was “little more than a PR stunt”. He will present an alternative report this week, in which he warns that 20,000 independent shops are at risk of closing down.

Miss Portas, who calls herself the ‘Queen of Shops’ for her TV show, was asked by David Cameron to suggest ways to save the high street. Her report, published in December 2011, was greeted with mixed reactions by the sector, with one retailing boss calling her suggestions “economically naïve”. She will appear in front of a powerful body of MPs today to answer questions on how her recommendations, which included “encouraging more bingo nights on our High Streets”, are faring.

Mr Grimsey, who has spent the last three months writing his alternative review of the high street, said the Portas plans “promised the earth but delivered little”. Since her report was published, eight household names, including Comet, HMV and Blockbuster, have all collapsed, leading to thousands of job losses, he said.

In his rival report, to be published on Wednesday, he says: “It was clear to me that Portas failed to highlight to the Government the dramatic structural changes impacting the retail industry through the convergence of changing consumer behaviour driven by technology and brought about by the prevailing economic conditions.”

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