Mary Portas led a talk with interviewer Helen, Head of Marketing at TU. Mary is an English retail consultant and broadcaster, she has had a varied career achieving a multitude of accomplishments from creating a string of charity shops for Save the Children, to her own creative communication agency called Portas. Portas’ first words to the audience were “surround yourself with great people is my number one tip, and secondly make sure you get enough rest.”

Portas’ career in retail started on the shop floor, rising through the ranks of John Lewis, Harrods and the Burton Group before being appointed Creative Director at Harvey Nichols. When discussing her career highlights, she claimed “turning a filing business into a successful business” was one of them for definite when referring to how she rebranded Harvey Nichols. Now Portas is an Executive Creative Director, Retail and Brand Advisor, Journalist, TV Presenter, Author, Ambassador for Save the Children and Government Advisor, and discussed her life in the fashion industry.

From wanting to be an actress to having to go to college and study retail management, Portas has achieved a vast amount in her career, and to add to that she is now an author as well. Her new book ‘work like a woman’ is all about being a woman in a tough industry. On this topic she turns to the audience and states “only 10% of you will get to board level,” a brutal but realistic statistic for women in the industry to get into the top business sector because as Portas mentions the business side is still dominated and run in a mans way. 


Words by Emily Bone 

Photography by Zoe Griffin