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Mary Portas (v) the commercial gravy train – The Diary of an Employable Blogaholic…

The People’s Supermarket was on TV not so long ago, and got a great load of press from the opportunity it gave them. At the end of the series, the UK Prime Minister D.C appeared, with monetary and vocal support for this scheme and others like it. What many people do not know, is that around a year later, The Peoples Supermarket nearly closed due to the rates that they were being charged to have a shop on the high street.  Thankfully they survived this scare, but it does beg the question – can ‘independents’ and social enterprises afford to stay on the high street and even in business, when faced with the ongoing competition of the national chains?

Back in December last year, TheEmployable wrote a piece about Mary Portas and her long awaited paper on the Future of the UK High Street. Week after week this post is still one of our most read posts. Why? Well Mary Portas, whilst being a very successful business women, strikes a chord with the general public. Why? Because she gives two hoots. Not only does she care…not only does she talk the talk…she actually walks it too.

“Oh no not another one” I remember thinking when Mary Portas first appeared on our TV screens. Another Gordon Ramsey type character telling people what they can and should do to be successful. However as good as she is at doing that, over the last couple of years or so, she has become a valued voice to the small business owner and the small and undervalued local high street.

David Cameron announced recently that there is a “business in all of us” and maybe he is right. However, before you can start a business, you need to know how to work first, and Mary Portas’ show “Mary’s Bottom Line” as good a TV ‘show’ as it is, is also a demonstration that all the ’employable’ need is a little bit of encouragement and support, and the personal transformation is clear. The show is not about how many knickers Mary’s factory sells (she has a head start over most others, having a TV show watched by millions), but how she encourages her previously unemployed apprentices, without any sense of self-enterprise and career prospects, and shapes them into well oiled workers, full of heart, soul and passion. A unemployment scheme at its best me thinks.

Passion is shown in abundance via the you tube videos that have been uploaded week after week from local towns in the UK, hoping to become a “Portas Pilot” – with the winners benefiting from a share of £1million of government  to help turn around their “unloved and unused” high streets. Whilst some of the videos seem a little dated, in terms of style, the number of videos and towns hoping to be included, shows both the love that people still have for their high streets, but also the desperation, for a cut of what is, a tiny pot of money. For what it is worth, my favourite is “I proper love Aylsham” which was prepared by a Sam a sixth form student. It looks good and less 1980’s ish.

Shame that said supermarket, doesn’t donate all the £60 fines they charge for loyal and paying customers overstepping their 3hr parking time limit, towards a ‘Portas Pilot’ scheme or a Mary Portas unemployment scheme like “Mary’s Bottom Line”. Like Mary Portas, if they want to demonstrate their ‘local’ commitment, they need to walk the walk too….

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