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Mary Portas – retailers’ worst enemy?

First they faced the recession, then the dearth of the high street and now it’s Mary Portas who seems to be on the backs of the poor high street retailers. Her new series, Secret Shopper , has caused an uproar amongst retailers who have suffered the brunt of her scathing comments about the customer service in many of these stores. Well known names such as H&M, Primark and Furniture Village were caught on camera; their terrible customer service laid bare, staff apathy and low morale scrutinized and customer dissatisfaction pinpointed. As if UK retailers don’t have enough on their plate at the moment!

It seems the retailers themselves think this is unfair, unjustified and unhelpful. But I think she has a very valid point to make that could not only help to improve customer service for customers like you and me but also help these stores to improve sales and their bottom line. I watched one episode where she featured fashion chain Pilot. She used the undercover camera to show the low staff morale, terrible service and poor store layout. She then worked with the MD of the chain  to show that improving the look of the store, investing in staff training and making customer service a priority not only resulted in more engaged staff and happier customers, but it also improved their sales.

Rather than taking offence to criticism like grumpy teenagers, maybe UK retailers should take heed of her suggestions and experience and put it into practice at a time when help is much needed. Perhaps the answer to the UK retail recession woes is simpler than they thought. Stop placing the emphasis on price wars and cost cutting and invest in the things that are going to make the customer experience better.

Happy employees = happy customers = more sales and happier UK retail industry. As the meercats would say…’simples’!

Keri Link is a consultant on the FreshMinds Talent Interim team