Mary Portas


Mary Portas, lovingly coined The Queen of Shops, has been credited for saving the British high street. As a consumer mogul, she has shared her retail expertise with everyone from store owners to former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in order to reignite the humble high street. Over the course of her career, she has gained experience as a businesswoman, advertising executive, retail expert, Government adviser, broadcaster and consumer champion, to become one of the most respected authorities on brand communication.

Prior to progressing at Harvey Nichols to their Creative Director in 1989, Mary began her retail career at John Lewis, Harrods and Topshop. Even in her early years as a retail royalty, she was commended for leading Harvey Nichols’ transformation into the world-renowned fashion chain it is today. In 1997, her business, Yellowdoor, was launched, and quickly positioned itself as a brand transforming icon in the creative advertising landscape. By 2013, Mary had re-launched Yellowdoor as Portas, evolving to become an industry expert in consumer behaviour.

On top of her successful career, Mary has also dedicated a large portion of her time to fundraising and charity work. After seeing the condition of UK charity shops, Mary created a new, unique format called Living and Giving. Since rolling out across the country, they have been highly successful due to their eccentric decor and community shopping experience. At present, her stores have raised over £10 million for Save the Children, a process that was documented by the BBC for her show, Mary Queen of Charity Shops.

After identifying that older women weren’t represented on the British high street, calling them the “lost generation”, Mary decided that something needed to change. Taking action, she created her own store within House of Fraser that produced clothes, shoes and accessories made for “women, not girls”. The decision was a roaring success, and received vast commercial and critical acclaim, even leading onto a documentary named Mary Queen of Frocks.

Mary’s next project aimed to revitalise the manufacturing industry in the UK, through a documentary named Mary’s Bottom Line. By reopening a factory in Manchester, she invited talented apprentices to bring the production line to life. The result? Kinky Knickers, which was stocked by some of the most powerful names in UK retail history, like Liberty, Boots and ASOS.

As Mary’s dedication to the high street produced such successful results, she received a commission from the British Government to direct an independent study. With the support of the Government, retailers and the public, Mary’s work has triggered mass community regeneration, breathing new life into the high street. A documentary titled Mary Queen of the High Streets soon followed, which showcased Mary’s process of saving the high street by putting local people first.

As an after-dinner speaker, Mary shares with her audience the tips and tricks of the trade, especially how she creates the perfect environment for consumers to shop. The prolific retail speaker also discusses the best way to encourage return trade, increase business profitability and improve the customer experience while shopping. As a keynote speaker, she has featured at conferences on market trends and branding, but with her confident stage presence and witty charisma, Mary can captivate audiences on a range of subjects. Her enthusiasm is infectious, resulting in an audience of people eager to increase their own sales after they witness her speak.

To book Mary Portas as the retail speaker for your corporate event, function or conference, simply contact the Champions Speakers agency by emailing or by calling a booking agent directly on 0207 1010 553.

When at corporate events, Mary is known to cover the following topics:

  • Branding & Marketing – Since hitting the high-streets in her first retail role, Mary has developed a keen eye for branding and marketing, most prevalent in her transformation of Harvey Nichols in 1989. As an after-dinner speaker, she will discuss the strategies behind some of the high streets most challenging branding and marketing campaigns.
  • Corporate Turnaround – After gaining experience reigniting the British high street, Mary now knows a thing or two about turning a struggling business into an industry leader. Available for conferences and private functions alike, she can highlight the tips and tricks to successfully turning a corporate business around, straight from an industry expert’s experience.
  • Increasing Profits & Cutting Costs – When she recognised the weaknesses of our high street charity stories, Mary’s investment has produced millions of pounds for children’s charity, Save the Children. By booking Mary, you will gain a direct insight into the best ways to cut costs and increase profits, trialled and tested by the Queen of Shops herself.
  • Customer Experience – After noticing a gap in the market for clothes directed at older women, Mary’s extensive expertise in customer experience helped her to create a thriving brand for a specific target audience. In her public speaking, she shares how her insider knowledge and consumer research will benefit the sales of your product or service.

1989 – Joined the Board of Directors at Harvey Nichols, as their Creative Director
1997 – Founded Yellowdoor, a brand development company
2007 – Presented Mary Queen of Shops, on BBC2
2009 – Presented Mary Queen of Charity Shops, on BBC2
2011-2015 – Presented Mary Portas: Secret Shopper, on Channel 4
2011 – Presented Mary Queen of Frocks, on Channel 4
2012 – Presented Mary’s Bottom Line, on Channel 4
2013 – Relaunched Yellowdoor as Portas, analysing consumer behaviour and retail trends
2013 – Presented Mary Queen of the Highstreets, on Channel 4
2015 – Published Shopgirl, a memoir of her early years
2015-2018 – What Britain Bought In…, on Channel 4
2016 – Presented What Britain Buys, on Channel 4

“Mary was inspirational and we received lots of positive feedback from employees.” – Kelly, Viacom