Mary Portas joins Spring Fair speaker line-up

Retail expert, broadcaster and consumer champion Mary Portas is to bring her vision for the future of the high street to the Spring Fair.

Speaking in conversation with Ashley Armstrong, Retail Editor at daily national newspaper ‘The Times’, Mary will discuss how businesses, particularly those on the high street, must adopt ‘kinder ways of behaving’. Drawing on her personal philosophy honed over a lifetime’s experience of working in retail, she will outline her manifesto for change and her belief that we must make retail a better place to work for everyone.

The one-time Government high streets advisor will also reveal her advice on how struggling retailers can rebuild their relationships with customers and save their stores.

Speaking ahead of her appearance at the show, Mary said: “Big retailers will give you many reasons why the high street is failing – the internet, economic climate, Brexit – but the biggest reason is that as people and consumers, we’ve changed our value system.

“We’ve realised that the old system of ‘more equals better’, is not going to be better for us as people or for our planet. The fact is, old-school consumer culture, reducing people to what they buy rather than who they are, is dying. And businesses that were set up to feed that beast are crumbling. This new era – ‘The Kindness Economy’ – is going to be about sentience. It’s going to be about care, respect and understanding the implications of what we are doing.”

Julie Driscoll, Regional Director for Spring & Autumn Fair, said: “It’s such a treat to be welcoming Mary to Spring Fair once again. From her beginnings working for John Lewis, Harrods and Topshop, to the publication of her latest book ‘Work Like a Woman’, Mary’s career has rejected complacency and rejuvenated stale retail practices at every turn. She’s a trailblazer to whom the UK retail sector owes a great debt for its continued success.

“Spring Fair visitors should pay close attention to her manifesto for a better, kinder retail working environment. People are the root to success in our sector, so reassessing how we nurture and attract talent is a challenge we must face up to. These are the difficult conversations that Mary has never shied away from.”

*‘Ashley Armstrong in conversation with Mary Portas’ will take place at 2pm on Tuesday February 4 at the Inspiring Retail Stage located in hall 6.

Other speakers at the event include celebrity cook Mary Berry and representatives from retailers John Lewis Partnership, Harrods, JML, Oliver Bonas, Prezzy Box, Selfridges, Monsoon and Shop Direct, alongside a host of trend analysts, industry commentators and trade associations such as Colour Hive, Trend Bible, Mintel, Google, PWC, The Giftware Association, Bira (British Independent Retailers Association) and Which? – plus Housewares Magazine’s regular columnist Michael Weedon, chair of the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) Retail and High Streets Policy Unit and managing director of exp2 Ltd.

Spring Fair Portfolio Director Charlie Cracknell said: “Our 2020 line-up is highly relevant for today’s challenges, it will help shape thinking and we anticipate it to be our most exciting yet. We’re taking steps to embrace and indulge inspiring ideas from the industry’s most exciting innovators and disruptors. We want attendees to leave feeling invigorated, inspired, and with a new mindset for the year ahead and beyond.”

Spring Fair runs from February 2 to February 6 at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre. Register to attend for free here:

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