Mary Portas steers retailers in the right direction

When was the last time you caught someone doing something well?

I recently had the opportunity to congratulate a Tesco checkout assistant for the way she dealt with an alcohol age challenge on the customer served before me. I got a grateful smile in return.

I mention this because last week Channel 4 broadcasted the first episode in the Mary Portas Secret Shopper series. The store covered in this programme was a convenience store in the village of Burnham, near Slough. The first half of the programme was full of so many examples of the store not doing retail correctly, I was left wondering if the business would be able to improve even with Mary’s guidance!

The programme showed a store in chaos, with poor staff management and poor processes. To solve the issue of the overwhelming amount of expired products, the owner agreed to Mary’s suggestion that he should close the store to identify all of the out-of-date products and remove them from display. There was a lot, nearly £1,000 worth.

secret shopper mary portas
Staff with a trolley full of expired products found across the store

The programme takes the viewer through the process of change and recovery for the employees, and management. A highlight was their visit to the award winning Spar store, Eat 17. Seeing the modern and unique innovations Eat 17 had taken invigorated the young staff. This prompted Mary to encourage the store’s owner Keshu to invest in the future and hand more responsibility over to his daughter.

The store undergoes a dramatic transformation, giving everyone involved with the store a new sense of pride.

Three months after Mary’s final visit, a new Tesco superstore opened nearby. This Tesco was in fact the subject of a previous article of mine. Keshu said the new Tesco has had some impact on trade, but the lessons learnt from Mary has equipped them to compete with the big superstore and fight back.

If you haven’t yet seen the programme you can catch up with it here.

Mary Portas

There is lot to learn from this lesson by Mary Portas.


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