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Video: retail guru Mary Portas on how to help businesses thrive

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Retail expert Mary Portas met Labour Party candidate, Dr Simon Opher in a bustling Stroud on Saturday morning and spoke about the thriving town centre and Farmers Market, as well as challenges facing business owners.

“What we see today actually is a thriving High Street, because what’s created this on a Saturday has been the locals actually, really fuelling the best market in the country, and I love the idea that if you give opportunity to the creativity at the heart of this crazy town, which I adore, you can create vibrant High Streets,” said Ms Portas.

“What we’ve seen under Tory governments has really limited the way that this can organically happen, and we want to free that up – where there are empty shops let’s put these new talents into the heart of it.

DSC7056 | Video: retail guru Mary Portas on how to help businesses thrive
Dr Simon Opher with Mary Portas.

“If you create places where people feel safe and connected, and that fits the needs of the local communities, you start to really have harmony and I love that. And this is, as I said, an area that’s full of innovation entrepreneurs, these small independent shops, we want to keep that, and we want that to thrive.”

Dr Opher told Stroud Times: “It’s fantastic to have Mary here, she’s got such a broad and experienced view of what makes a High Street work, and it’s all about local people and enabling them to be creative around starting up businesses and taking risks.

“Our Farmers Market here is fantastic – my daughter sells her pottery here and it’s the best market she goes to in the whole country. It’s really vibrant, lots of people and it’s all about building that community wealth.”

DSC7049 | Video: retail guru Mary Portas on how to help businesses thrive
Dr Simon Opher with Mary Portas.

Ms Portas added: “It’s really important we keep this [busy High Street] during the week and it’s not just for Saturdays. Empty streets really pull down the energy and wellbeing of people – we don’t talk about that enough. When you see an independent coffee shop with people sitting outside, they feel connected with the community.

“We’ve had empty shops that could have been, short term, used by small businesses who can’t afford the rent on a big shop but could work together collaboratively. That is what Stroud does so brilliantly – it puts on huge events, and everybody comes. Can you imagine if we just did that and said, ‘OK, let’s look at this in a just a little bit more lateral way and start being creative’. So, creativity and innovation but underpinned with good policy that gives them a kicking chance.” 

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