Mary Portas asked to revive high street

The Government has tasked retail specialist Mary Portas, star of the TV show Queen of Shops, with turning around Britain’s ailing high streets.

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The TV presenter, has been asked by Prime Minister David Cameron to carry out an independent review into the future of the high street.

She will look at how to address the problems of empty shops and “clone towns” and revitalise the high street by finding new business models that fit with modern needs and increasing the number of independent retailers.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) says the review is intended to identify how government, local authorities and businesses can promote more “prosperous and diverse” high streets.

Prime Minister David Cameron says: “The high street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment; so it is vital that we do all that we can to ensure they thrive. I am confident that Mary Portas’ straight talking, no nonsense approach will help us to create vibrant and diverse town centres and bring back the bustle to our high streets.”

The report is part of the Government’s wider Growth Review. Portas will present her findings in the autumn.

The British Retail Consortium says the Government’s move to protect and promote the high street is positive but warns that it must support all retailers and not penalise successful retailers or restrict consumer choice.

Town centres have been worst hit by the slowdown in consumer spending and the number of vacant stores has risen dramatically in the past three years.

Retailers are also facing further challenges in the next 10 years as consumer spending is not expected to return to pre-recessionary levels until 2013 and will rise only 2% by 2020, according to the latest report form think tank Ernst & Young Item Club.

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