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Mary Portas
Born 28 May 1960 (1960-05-28) (age 49)
Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Citizenship British
Education St Joan of Arc Convent, Hertfordshire
Alma mater RADA, Watford School of Art
Occupation Retail consultant
Employer Yellowdoor
Known for Television presenter, author

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


Early life and education

Portas was brought up in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, in a family of five children. Educated at St Joan of Arc Convent, Hertfordshire,[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]

Having discovered a passion and talent for drama at an early age, she began to turn her thoughts to acting. She was awarded a place at The Royal Acadamy of Dramatic Art, (RADA) but never took it up because of the sudden death of her father.


After college, she 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 where 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 got free 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 if she namechecked the business.[6] Portas joined the company board before the age of 30, after taking Harvey Nichols from being a dowager of retail to the favourite shop for fashionable women, including Diana, Princess of Wales.

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

Portas is claimed 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 shope that was the inspiration for the BBC documentary and accompanying book.[7][8]

On 7 June 2007, BBC 2 began airing Mary Queen of Shops, a four-part series featuring Portas as she visits a number of ailing shops, aiming to help the owners revitalise their businesses. The tie-in book to this TV series, entitled How to Shop with Mary Queen of Shops is claimed to be an insider's guide to being a better shopper. Mary Queen Of Shops returned for a second six-part series on 9 June 2008, and the three-part Mary Queen of Charity Shops on 2 June 2009

Personal life

Portas was married to chemical engineer and Unilever executive Graham for 14 years and they have two children: son Mylo and daughter Verity.[2] She left her husband for Grazia magazine fashion features editor Melanie Rickey. Portas and Rickey now live in Maida Vale with her children, after an amicable divorce from her husband.[3]

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

Golden rules

Portas states her golden rules of shopping as:[3]

  • Don't stand for shoddy service. If you're not being served, simply walk out of the shop. There are few stores selling an item that can't be found elsewhere. It may be an inconvenience, but these shops won't improve their standard of service until their sales figures give them reason to
  • Never shop on a Saturday. OK, you've got the day off, but so has the rest of Britain. By the afternoon, the merchandise can be all over the place and the staff are flagging
  • Dress the part. Wear flat shoes, jeans and vests so you are as comfortable as possible when you are walking up and down the High Street. And go shopping on a good hair day — if your hair looks bad, the whole outfit won't feel right. The same applies with make-up
  • Go online first. Use the internet to do your research before you go out to the shops. Log on after the major catwalk shows to get ideas for what's coming up and check out the season's key fashion pieces
  • Don't buy in haste. If you're not sure, don't buy it. If you've got time and don't mind taking the risk, put everything back — except exceptional items — until the end of the day before making a choice


  1. ^ Davidson, Andrew (5 July 2008). "Tills ring for Mary Portas, queen of shop — Page4". Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 July 2008.  
  2. ^ a b c d Davidson, Andrew (5 July 2008). "Tills ring for Mary Portas, queen of shop — Page5". Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 July 2008.  
  3. ^ a b c d Sands, Sarah (1 June 2007). "I'm Mary, Queen of Shops — with all the advice on shopping you need". Daily Mail. Retrieved 5 July 2008.  
  4. ^ Davidson, Andrew (5 July 2008). "Tills ring for Mary Portas, queen of shop — Page3". Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 July 2008.  
  5. ^ a b "Mary Portas". The Brand Council. Retrieved 5 July 2008.  
  6. ^ Davidson, Andrew (5 July 2008). "Tills ring for Mary Portas, queen of shop — Page2". Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 July 2008.  
  7. ^ "Retail therapist — Mary's mission". Daily Telegraph magazine. 5 May 2007. Retrieved 5 July 2008.  
  8. ^ The Daily Record

External links



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