Mary is one of the UK’s foremost authorities on retail and brand communication and she regularly travels around the world advising on retail strategy and frequently lectures on the theme of brands and retail.
She started her career in retail with a Saturday job in John Lewis. She then had a part-time, and later a full-time, job with Harrods where she was responsible for window displays for about three years, before joining TopShop as display manager. While in this job, she was spotted by Burton Group chairman Sir Ralph Halpern.
Mary Portas is credited with turning Harvey Nichols into a leading modern fashion brand. She created the Harvey Nichols show windows that became part of the guided tours of London: one of her most famous displays was “Autumn Intrusion”, a commission by artist Thomas Heatherwick that won a D&AD Gold award in 1997.
Portas’s first book, Windows — the Art of Retail Display, was published in five languages. She writes a weekly column, Shop!, for the Daily Telegraph magazine, reviewing shops across the country. She started writing the column in 2005 and it was her critiquing of shops that was the inspiration for the BBC documentary and accompanying book.
In 2011 Portas joined Channel 4 and created a new series Mary Portas: Secret Shopper that saw her using disguises and secret filming to reveal bad customer service in UK shops. Also in 2011 she opened her first retail shop as a concession in House of Fraser’s Oxford Street branch. The shop, named Mary & House of Fraser, sells clothing and lifestyle products aimed at the 40+ female market, and was filmed for a Channel 4 documentary Mary Queen of Frocks that aired in October 2011.
Following the BBC2 series Mary Queen of Charity Shops in June 2009, Mary was appointed as Global Retail Ambassador for Save the Children. She developed the “Living & Giving” concept as a new type of charity shop that puts the local community at its heart.
In May 2011 she was appointed by the Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to lead an independent review into the future of the high street. She published her report “The Portas Review” on 13 December 2011.
Mary’s considerable business experience, combined with his pleasing manner, informed approach and articulate delivery, make him a natural choice for personal appearances, motivational and after dinner speaking, as well as corporate days and promotions.