Portas: I'm not saviour of the High Street
Television star and retail guru Mary Portas believes it is "unfair" she has taken a "bashing" for her controversial review of the High Street she is carrying out for free for the Government.
Liskeard, in South East Cornwall, is among the towns to be awarded £100,000 of Government funding to boost its dwindling High Street under the Portas Pilot scheme.
But, ahead of her appearance before a powerful group of MPs yesterday, she was slammed as "nostalgic" and "simply foolish" by Bill Grimsey, the former boss of DIY chain Wickes and supermarket group Iceland. He added her rescue scheme was "little more than a PR stunt".
Being grilled by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, the Queen of Shops made plain she is "not the saviour" of the flagging High Street.
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And she warned big name retailers would not return to town centres when the economy recovers – with the old idea of high streets dominated by chains a thing of the past.
Miss Portas 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.
Yesterday she insisted her report was more a "catalyst for change" which had raised the profile of the problems high streets. "I am not the saviour of the High Street," she told MPs. "I am a champion of it. I cannot do this on my own. I believe in the High Street and that they are an important social infrastructure and part of the community in this country.
"I have taken a huge bashing for the work I have done for nothing. I think it is quite simply unfair."
But she warned that the impact of internet sales, rising rents and business rates and changing shopping patterns meant that the old-style high street was "dead".
"I was travelling the country and seeing what was happening and because I work in consumerism and marketing I could see we were going to have a crisis that was going to hit," she said. "The high street has been in decline for the last 20 years."
Mr Grimsey will present an alternative report this week, in which he warns that 20,000 independent shops are at risk of closing down. But Miss Portas brushed off the criticism, joking: "I must have done something to him in a previous life."