// Mary Portas says the high street needs to change, not just be saved
// Speaking to The Observer, she says the strategy of “stacking stuff high and selling it fast” was now “completely and utterly over”
Mary Portas has said the high street brands that have dominated for years have “failed to offer anything beyond mediocrity” and implored retailers and the government to think about changing the high street, rather than just save it.
In an interview with The Observer, the retail guru – who was appointed by former Prime Minister David Cameron to lead a review into the future of British high streets in 2011 – said the days when the strategy of “stacking stuff high and selling it fast” was commonplace was now “completely and utterly over”.
She said the retailers that did this for years “failed to offer anything beyond mediocrity” and questioned whether consumers genuinely miss BHS or even care about Dorothy Perkins.
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Her comments followed a week of high street woes when 26,500 jobs were put at risk at retailers including Debenhams, Bonmarche and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group – all of which have been severely impacted by the pandemic.
BHS was once part of the Arcadia Group retail empire, and Dorothy Perkins remains one of its brands.
“We’re looking at a whole new generation who aren’t going to prop up the likes of Philip Green any more,” Portas told The Observer.
“They’re not supporting businesses who don’t prioritise people or the planet. We’re moving away from that: there is a new value system at play.”
Despite the grim news of recent weeks, Portas went on to forecast growth for high streets.
She said the future of the sector relied on fewer shops just selling goods and more on retailers that had a strong in-store customer experience focus, as well as spaces that act as community hubs.
Portas also said the Conservatives have failed to comprehend how retail has changed, and they “need to wake up” to the reality of online retail giants needing to pay equivalent rates of tax online.