Queen of Shops Mary Portas slammed as "nostaligic" and "simply foolish," by retail expert
RETAIL guru Mary Portas, who stormed into Liskeard as part of her mission to save the nation's dying high streets, says the "bashing" she has received following on from her involvement in the government-led Portas Pilot Project is "simply unfair".
Ms Portas was asked by the Government to conduct a review of the nation's dwindling high streets and share her expertise to help boost troubled towns, free of charge.
Liskeard was one of 12 towns across the nation that was selected to take part in the project, and scooped £100,000 of government funding to help regenerate the heart of the town.
But ahead of her appearance before a powerful group of MPs on Monday, Ms Portas 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.
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.
Ms 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.
This week she insisted her report was more a "catalyst for change" which had raised the profile of the problems of 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".
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."