The government’s bid to save the high street under Mary Queen of Shops star Mary Portas has failed to achieve significant results because it is too driven by the cult of personality, according to the new director general of the British Retail Consortium.
Helen Dickinson, who took up the reins at the BRC this week, said that while Portas’ involvement had raised the profile of the crisis facing high street retailers, it had led to few tangible improvements.
“There is more public awareness because of the Portas review,” said the former head of retail at KPMG. “But on the big issues, I’m not sure they’ve got very far. Has it made a fundamental difference? No.
“It seems to be very personality driven. I think groups like the BRC need to be involved in taking it forward and we will be doing what we can on the issue.”
Dickinson called for urgent action from ministers to reduce the huge costs of doing business on the high street, which she blamed for a new record high of 11.3% of shops standing empty.
She also criticised the “slow progress” on key issues raised by the Portas review, including the call to slash the cost of business rates, which are set to rise by 2.6% in 2013.
Last month, a report by the BRC called for urgent intervention by the government to reduce business rates.
“Two-thirds of MPs have told us that they support a rates freeze - I urge them to keep pushing for this change if they want to breathe life back into our town centres,” said Dickinson.