TV star criticised for view on charity shops

Retail guru Mary Portas
Retail guru Mary Portas
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A TELEVISION star and retail guru has been accused of “living in another world” after suggesting a limit on charity shops could revitalise ailing high streets.

Mary Portas, famous for her Mary Queen of Shops television series, made the suggestion after Prime Minister David Cameron appointed her to lead an independent review into the future of high streets.

But Spalding charity shop managers and town centre traders refute her claims that the variety of shops available on the high street is limited because of the number of available units occupied by good causes, saying they provide a valuable resource in difficult economic times.

Charity shops are also preferable to boarded up or empty units, which are one of the major turn-offs for shoppers.

Sue Alexander, manager of the Butterfly Hospice charity shop in Spalding’s Station Street, said: “I don’t think that the number of charity shops in Spalding is detrimental to the town because if they weren’t here it would just be full of empty shops and shoppers wouldn’t come in at all.

“Mary Portas obviously lives in another world. Her TV series on charity shops was appalling and she has shown she has no concept of how charity shops work.

“In these horrendous financial times, when everyone is on such a tight budget, charity shops are a great option for shoppers and do vital work raising money for good causes.”

And Rita Nottage, manager of Spalding’s Oxfam shop, said charity shops fulfil a vital role and there would not be so many in the town centre if people did not shop in them, or if there were not enough donations to stock them all.

Coun Gary Taylor, South Holland district council ward member for the town centre, claims he receives more complaints about the number of betting shops and opticians in Spalding town centre than about charity shops, and said he could only see Ms Portas’s suggestion becoming necessary if whole streets were turned over to fundraisers.

He said: “I don’t think it’s a major problem in Spalding.

“Obviously, high streets need a good mixture of shops but I don’t think there’s a reason to limit charity shops because they serve an important purpose, particularly in times like these when people are struggling to make ends meet.”

And Jason Rooke, president of Spalding and district area Chamber of Commerce, said the only reason to limit charity shops would be if the demand for shops outstripped the number of available units in the town centre.

He said: “A shop with a charity in it is far better than an empty shop.

“Every town needs a mixture of leading names and independents and if all the shops in Spalding were full it might become preferable to put a cap on charity shops.

“But, in the current climate I would not think there are many towns where all the shops are occupied and I can’t see that happening any time soon.”