Retail expert Mary Portas isn’t new to TV. BBC Two’s Mary Queen of Shops series focusing on retail makeovers has been going for some time.
But while in the past she has tended to stay close to her heartland in fashion retailing – she famously worked as creative director for top fashion store Harvey Nichols in the design-driven 1990s – her retail and brand communication agency Yellowdoor is broader. Indeed, over the past couple of TV series Portas (pictured with retail designer Callum Lumsden) has branched out, first into charity shops and then to independent retailers of all kinds, but largely family businesses.
It is in this latest incarnation that she brought in more of the design side of retailing, working alongside several design consultancies. Kinnersley Kent, Blacksheep, Sheridan & Co, Small Back Room and Epoch all got a look-in – taking on a greengrocer, a village store, a hairdresser, a DIY outlet, a bakery and a furniture store. Some of the groups have won work from independents since, on the strength of the TV exposure.
It is great to see design being portrayed so publicly as integral to the mix in retailing, alongside merchandising, promotions and the like. It is also good to see it take centre stage even when the retailer is small and the business niche.
It will be interesting to see what, if any, role design plays in her latest TV series for Channel Four, Mary Portas: Secret shopper.