A quick chat with Mary Portas

Mary Portas talks about the new series of Queen of Shops (BBC1, Monday, June 7) which moves away from fashion to help a range of slightly difficult local shopkeepers…

Why have you changed the focus of the show away from fashion?

“After the recession which was a real knocking for independent businesses, it just didn’t seem relevant if I came back and said, ‘Right, how do we get fashion back on its feet?'”

Do you have the same confidence that you had with fashion businesses?

“Yes, I’m a retailer and I specialise in luxury fashion, but this is a business model – it’s just one minute it’s frocks and the next it’s food.”

Mary talks through the six businesses she helps during the series.

Mary v The Baker

The shop: Mahers & Sons, South West London

The problem: “After 36 years, they were hanging on to the old birds who came in every week, but losing out on the new local market – yummy mummys who were going to supermarkets for ease and accessibility.”

Mary’s solution: “I had to get them into creating artisan bread that people expect to see in shops today. The cakes they were making just said calories and heart attack. Her customers were dying off, but the owner believed her way was right!”

Difficulty rating: 9/10. “I just thought, this is irretrievable and I’m not going to prostitute myself here!”

Mary v The Village Store

The shop: Clealls, Dorset

The problem: “They were a nice London couple who moved to Dorset to open a village store. I felt sorry for them because they’d landed in a village, which was at odds with the way they lived. They were selling things like frozen cheesy chips!”

Mary’s solution: “I had to chuck everything out – they have to give these people local convenience that’s really the right kind of convenience. Nobody sells hideous tinned chopped carrots anymore!”

Difficulty rating: 7/10. “There were so many different layers to it, the old consumer, the new consumer and the tourists.”

Mary v The Greengrocer

The shop: Fosters, Merseyside

The problem: “Everyone was buying fruit and veg from the supermarket, but when we do that we chuck about a third out.”

Mary’s solution: “It was about buy less, buy local and it really worked for them.”

Difficulty rating: 6/10. “I loved the work, but it was the people, the three sisters had a really odd dynamic.”

Mary v The Interiors

The shop: Under the Moon, Kingston.

The problem: “They were the biggest throwback hippies from the 1970s I have ever seen. There were perfume bottles in the shape of shoes. Who does that?”

Mary’s solution: “I had to get them understanding how people are buying for their home. I got them vintage furniture from trade fairs, which they spray-painted.”

Difficulty rating: 8/10. “This was massive!”

Mary v The Hairdresser

The shop: John Peers, Rochdale

The problem: “Have you been to Rochdale? It’s full of boarded-up shops! I thought I was going to see this cocky hairdresser because initially he said, ‘I’ll sort her hair out when she comes up!’ So I thought, ‘Right I’m having you!'”

Mary’s solution: “I loved him because he was open to ideas.”

Difficulty rating: 6/10. “I would never have my hair cut there!”

Mary v The DIY expert

The shop: Lightwater

The problem: “The big out-of-town places take all the money. People would just go in for a lightbulb or spend a fiver and I had to get their average sale up to at least three times that.”

Mary’s solution: “I said, ‘Why don’t you become a DIY service where you turn up at people’s houses.'”

Difficulty:8/10. “They nearly pushed me over the edge!”