Modern Retail

Mary Portas: The Changing World of Retail

Mary Portas

Mary Portas took to the stage at Autumn Fair 2019 to explain the rapidly changing retail landscape. With more retailers looking to focus on customers’ experiences, Mary Portas voiced that those who don’t adapt will soon begin to fall behind competitors.

She explained: “The benchmark for success has changed. Success in retail didn’t used to look at how people in retail felt. It wasn’t about the people who made the business what it was, or the customers. There was this big bubble in retail which only focused on how quickly you can grow with set systems, and it’s now burst.

“In a world where the internet has now become so big, we are starting to see a new approach, where everyone is asking ’How happy am I?’ If you’re not looking at what people are doing and their sensitivities, you will fall into the old camp of those not looking to the future, only caring about how quickly and cheaply you can deliver.”

Morals, ethics and principles are playing an increasingly large part in retail. Mary Portas added: “78% of millennials say they will not buy from a brand which does not share their values… so it is so important to actually think about your value system.”

Speaking about creating a sense of belonging and pride among customers, Mary Portas said: “You see people come in who have broken the old retail rules. What they built was communities… they connected with the people and created a following. They harnessed a community of people. Even Nike does it… they don’t sell running shoes, they sell ‘yes you can.’ It’s the collectiveness you have as a group when a brand is made strong through sensitivity and understanding.

“A successful mattress company doesn’t sell mattresses… they sell sleep and well-being now. You need to build something that has meaning to people, using sensitivity and putting the customer back at the centre.”


Moving forward, Portas explained the way retail is heading back towards a more experienced-based approach: “High streets will be about local communities with anchors of things we can’t do online. This will enable us to create footfall and open up shops for what customers need. It will shift back to the high street.”

Holly Worthington

Holly Worthington

Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail's Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today's ever-changing market.

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