With a self confessed love of fashion and fierce urban glamour, Mary Portas transforms any failing independent fashion boutique into a positive, upbeat space, brimming with dazzling retail potential - to unleash the fortunes of any store.
Mary Portas accompanied hairdresser John Peers on a recent trip to Bradford College, during the filming of the latest series of her hit BBC2 programme ‘Mary Queen of Shops’.
Offering inspirational advice to students starting out in their careers, Mary said: “Starting out is always terribly difficult. I was thinking about this and looking back on my career. The early days of your career are probably the most difficult, because it’s about you, finding you - and understanding where your skills are.”
Mary began her impressive career in retail at John Lewis. By 1982 she had become a Harrods window dresser, before making the move to Topshop Oxford Circus in the late eighties. By the 1990s, Mary had made her name at Harvey Nichols, turning it into the leading edge fashion retailer we know today.
Mary continued: “In the early days of my career, there were lots of things that I did where I thought, ‘God, I’m not great at this’. I genuinely believe that commitment and just pushing and pushing to try and give whatever task you have your best, is the way through in any business.”
Armed with her unique knowledge of brands, retail trends and consumer insights, Mary felt the time was right in 1997 to launch her own company ‘Yellowdoor’ a retail branding and communications agency. Her impressive list of clients include: Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, Thomas Pink, and John Smedley to name but a few. Commenting on her team at Yellowdoor, Mary said: “I look at some of my young staff coming in and it’s more about their attitude, rather than their skill. I’d say that because, more often than not, you can train people up. No business expects you to come in and hit the ground running. If your attitude is one of ‘I want to do well’ and ‘I want to give the best to whoever I’m working for,’ then you can’t go wrong. I think too often you get people who think this world owes them a living and that it’s going to be easy… it’s not easy. It’s a brilliant changing world – there are jobs out there for these kids in the future that I don’t even know about yet. They’ll be new types of work. I think it’s about being open minded and committed and turning up on a Monday morning after you’ve had a heavy weekend and still being passionate about what you do!”
As the driving force behind Yellowdoor and the author of two internationally acclaimed books, Mary decided to apply her killer entrepreneurial streak to her next creative venture ‘Mary Queen of Shops’ – making the transition from industry star to TV star.
So how did Hairdresser, John Peers, become involved in the latest series of ‘Mary Queen of Shops,’ starring alongside Mary Portas? John explained: “Mary wanted to do a piece on Rochdale, so she asked the people from Wella if they knew any hairdressers from Rochdale. They responded by saying ‘There’s only one hairdresser in Rochdale and that’s John Peers! He’s won ‘Hairdresser of the Year’ twice.'" John agreed to be featured on the hit BBC2 TV series, when he was approached by the production company Optomen.
John remarked: “The show focuses on companies that are failing. So I said to them 'We’re not doing great, but nobody in Rochdale is at the moment… the recession’s affected everyone. Toni and Guy closed down in Rochdale a few months ago and Hair Cuttery closed down a few weeks ago… so its been tough!'” Optimistically John added: “We’re still battling on though, we had a shop refit a few months ago. It’ll come round… it’s just about digging in.”
“How do I feel to be featured on the programme? I feel good about it!” John laughed and added: “Although I know she’s going to make me look like a plonker - that’s what the programme’s all about. Hopefully as the programme goes along, I’m sure I can turn it around and impress them a little bit.”
The new BBC2 series of 'Mary Queen of Shops' began screening on the 7th June at 9pm. To find out if retail guru Mary Portas can step in and save John’s Rochdale business from extinction, tune in on the 5th July at 9pm.