Growing your business
Spotlight On: High Street Heroes
With their local charm and independent quality, there’s no hiding that Britain’s high streets are really something to celebrate - so this month, that’s exactly what we’re doing! Starting by learning a little more about just three top heroes who are leading retail development and pioneering the evolution of our high-streets.
No doubt you will have already heard of the work of red-headed, straight-talking retail consultant Mary Portas - if not least from her multiple retail focused television series on BBC and Channel 4.
Having started out her career with a Saturday job in her local Boots, Mary scaled several other high-street businesses over the coming years - including the creation of Harvey Nichols’ famous window displays - before launching her own creative agency in 1997, Yellowdoor. Here she worked on developing brands such as Boden, Louis Vuitton, and Clarks before kicking off her first television series, Mary, Queen of Shops, on BBC 2 in 2007.
Mary, Queen of Shops was the first of several television series’ Mary has created that focuses around high-street troubleshooting and strategy for independent stores. It has since been followed up with several other consulting series including Mary, Queen of Frocks and Mary Portas: Secret Shopper.
In 2011, Mary was appointed by David Cameron to lead a review into the future of Britain’s high-streets. Here she campaigned for reduced parking charges and excessive red tape in retail.
Recent projects of Mary’s include the continued production of Mary’s Living and Giving Shops; a new concept of charity shop filled with designer donations and all in aid of Save The Children.
"I wanted to create a place for people to collaborate, share, and commune with energy, kindness and love," says Mary. "I wanted to create a space for fellow feeling and mindfulness to thrive. I wanted us to think about how we live and how we give back."
Clare Bailey is a UK based retail consultant, focusing on trade, high streets, and consumer matters. She is the founder of retail consulting agency, The Retail Champion - which provides support and 1-2-1 retail coaching for business owners - and several events in business development such as the Future High Street Summit and The Retail Conference.
Clare began her journey into the world of retail on a fast-track store management programme with McDonalds, before going on to work with national retailers such as M&S and Argos. Here she passed from management into consulting, both for global brands and for smaller businesses.
Now, thanks to her senior expertise, Clare frequently works as professional speaker and media contributor. She has been seen on the likes of BBC Breakfast, Good Morning Britain and Sky News, discussing retail trading and data.
Clare has also published two books - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success (2012) and How To Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product To Market (2013) - and provides contributions to several academic texts in the fields of business and marketing.
Earlier this month, we spoke to Clare about the future of the high street:
“It is almost impossible to predict the next 12 months” she said. “There are so many factors in play that the only accurate prediction is that any prediction will be wrong! All I can say is that those retailers who maintain an obsessive focus on the customer, whilst also having the same obsession about reducing costs or increasing efficiency, have the strongest and brightest future. Those who rest on their laurels, don’t recognise the need for constant re-evaluation of both what the customer wants, and, how they go about delivering it in the most profitable manner, will suffer.”
Catch the rest of Clare’s insight in this month’s lead article on the Perks, Pressures, and Predictions of The High Street as told by 500 small business owners.
This one isn’t an individual, but an industry-wide initiative created by retailer for retailers.
Founded in 2016, Save The High Street is an organisation that aims to support high street businesses and aid them in developing into a better connected, digitally enabled and more sustainable retail space. They’ve formed a Retailer Advisory Board - that work to identify and evaluate opportunities, recommendations and challenges facing the high street - of over 300 independent businesses, and now work with over 10,000 local businesses each week.
Having analysed businesses both successful and struggling, Save The High Street have also defined a set of Industry Standards that note ‘what works’ for high street businesses in our current climate. And within this are the ten pillars of The Connected Digital High Street Manifesto: data, discovery, fulfillment, in-store experience, product, brand, loyalty, team, money, and community.
You can find out more about Save The High Street and how to get involved here.