Retail veteran pillories Mary Portas: High streets 'as good as dead'

  • @Thompj

Bill Grimsey, the former chief executive of the defunct DIY chain Focus, has said the high street is "as good as dead already" and lambasted the review of sector by the retail expert Mary Portas as "all a waste of money and resources".

In his book Sold Out, the retail veteran says the policy failures of successive Governments, the "toxic" leverage of private equity deals, unrealistic retail landlords and online shopping have contributed to the "terminal disease" that is afflicting many local shopping environments. Instead of trying to revive existing town centres with more shops, the former Wickes, Iceland Foods and Focus executive says Government and local authorities should concentrate on initiatives that lead to more "restaurants, cafés, pedestrianised meeting areas, art galleries or advice centres". He adds: "We cannot 'save' the high street, Tragic though it is."

Mr Grimsey, pictured below, also criticises Ms Portas. The woman behind the TV series Mary Queen of Shops delivered her review of the high street last year and this was followed up by the government providing £5.5m of funding to help ailing high streets. But Mr Grimsey says the government support "will not even scratch the surface of the problem. Nor will the so-called Portas Pilots, the 27-odd towns that have been earmarked for special attention from retail expert Mary Portas...To be blunt, it is all a waste of money and resources". Mark Prisk, the housing minister, refuted Mr Grimsey's claim. "I've already seen first hand the excellent progress that has been made when I met all 27 Portas Pilots," he said.