Mary Portas

Mary Portas
Mary Portas
Born 28 May 1960 (1960-05-28) (age 51)
Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Citizenship British
Education St Joan of Arc Convent, Hertfordshire
Alma mater Watford School of Art
Occupation Retail consultant
Employer Yellowdoor
Known for Television presenter, author

Mary Portas (born 28 May 1960),[1] is an English retail adviser, journalist and television presenter.


Early life and education

Portas was born and brought up in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, in a family of five children. Educated at St Joan of Arc Catholic School, Rickmansworth,[2] she looked after her youngest brother following the death of her mother when she was 16. Her father, who died two years later, was sales director of Brooke Bond, the tea manufacturer.[3]

Portas discovered a passion and talent for drama at an early age: she was awarded a place at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but the sudden death of her father prevented her from taking it up.


Portas 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,[2] before joining TopShop as display manager. While in this job, she was spotted by Burton Group chairman Sir Ralph Halpern.[4]

Portas is credited with turning Harvey Nichols into a leading modern fashion brand.[5] She created the Harvey Nichols show windows that became part of the guided tours of London — one of her most famous displays was of mocked-up pop bands, including Gary Glitter.[3] She then persuaded the store's owners to use younger designers, and gained publicity in the BBC’s Absolutely Fabulous series in the 1990s, after promising writer and star of the show Jennifer Saunders the run of the store for research in return for Saunders namechecking the business.[6] By the age of 30, Portas was a member of the company's board.

Portas left Harvey Nichols to launch Yellowdoor, a communications agency that she now runs with Peter Cross. Yellowdoor advises clients in fashion, retail, and beauty brands on PR, Communications Strategy and marketing.

Portas is claimed[by whom?] to be one of the UK's foremost authorities on retail and brand communication.[5] She regularly travels around the world advising on retail strategy and frequently lectures on the theme of brands and retail.

On 19 June 2009, in a ceremony at Galashiels, Heriot-Watt University awarded Portas a Doctorate of Letters in recognition of her career and her contribution to the advancement of marketing and brand communications within the retail sector.


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.[7]

Television career

After getting her TV break on Richard & Judy, BBC 2 began airing Mary Queen of Shops in June 2007. The first series comprised four episodes in which Portas visited a number of failing shops, aiming to help the owners revitalise their businesses. The BBC published a tie-in book, entitled How to Shop with Mary Queen of Shops. The second, six-part, series was aired from June 2008, and the three-part Mary Queen of Charity Shops in June 2009. A third series of Mary Queen of Shops began in June 2010 and dealt with independent shops including a bakery, a local village shop and a grocer. In 2011 Portas joined Channel 4, and created a new series Mary Portas: Secret Shopper that saw her using different disguies and secret filming to reveal bad customer service in UK shops[8]. Her latest series for the channel, Mary Queen of Frocks was a departure from the produced shows that Mary had presented previously, and instead was an observational documentary that followed Mary as she tried to launch her own shop aimed at 40+ women with UK retailer House of Fraser[9][10].

Retail venture

In August 2011 she opened her first retail shop as a concession in House of Fraser's Oxford Street branch[11]. The shop, named Mary & House of Fraser, sells clothing and lifestyle products aimed at the 40+ female market[12], and was filmed for a Channel 4 documentary Mary Queen of Frocks that aired in October 2011.

Government appointment

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 is due to publish her report in Autumn 2011[13].


She was named as one of the top 100 Tweeters in the UK by The Independent in 2011.

Personal life

Portas was married to chemical engineer and Unilever executive Graham Portas for 14 years and they have a son and a daughter.[2] Portas now lives with her civil partner,[14] Grazia magazine fashion features editor Melanie Rickey, in Maida Vale with her children, after an amicable divorce from her husband.[3]

She spends her money on art, wine, theatre and chocolate, and enjoys gardening.[2]


  1. ^ Davidson, Andrew (5 July 2008). "Tills ring for Mary Portas, queen of shop — Page 4". London: The Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d Davidson, Andrew (5 July 2008). "Tills ring for Mary Portas, queen of shop — Page 5". London: The Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c Sands, Sarah (1 June 2007). "I'm Mary, Queen of Shops — with all the advice on shopping you need". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  4. ^ Davidson, Andrew (5 July 2008). "Tills ring for Mary Portas, queen of shop — Page 3". London: The Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  5. ^ a b "Mary Portas". The Brand Council. Archived from the original on 30 March 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  6. ^ Davidson, Andrew (5 July 2008). "Tills ring for Mary Portas, queen of shop — Page 2". London: The Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  7. ^ Portas, Mary (5 May 2007). "Retail therapist — Mary's mission". London: The Daily Telegraph magazine. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
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  14. ^ "WARNING: Very Stylish Mary Portas and Melanie Rickey Wedding Photos Inside". Queeried magazine. 2 June 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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