Letters: A reply from Mary Portas

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Dear Erica

Firstly thank you. For all you have done to reinvigorate and believe in great local community retail.

Read: Opinion: An open letter to Mary Portas

I’m always happy to give a nudge to a landlord, to the Government, to whoever it takes to get local, independent retail supported.

The Creative Hub Pop-Up sounds like exactly the kind of thing that a thriving place like Bedford needs. And I really hope there’s a landlord out there who looks to the long-term impact of a project like that. All they really need to do though is read the beautiful letter you wrote.

Because in it, you’ve captured everything that has driven me over my career: the belief that great retail is vital to how we live – as individuals but also, crucially, as communities.

You’ve wonderfully described how £1,000 – which as you say even ten years ago wasn’t a lot – can be the spark that creates a host of outcomes.

From one small loan, all this sprang: BedPop, a children’s book shop, a record shop, a fruit and veg shop and a ‘Made In Bedford’ shop/café.

Fun Palaces and Science Labs events, Taste Bedford, Bedford Flea, a vintage clothes shop, a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, a fishmonger, pizzeria, tattoo parlour, hairdressers. The revitalised Edwardian Arcade and Riverside North.

And, of course, the Bedford Independent.

It’s an amazing achievement of perseverance and energy because, as we all know, independent retail is rarely given a leg up by anybody. You must believe passionately in what you’re doing to drive it forward.

But I think, like me, you know that a shop isn’t just a shop. It’s a place where people and communities connect, relationships are forged, creativity is sparked and the signposts to the future can start to be rooted in solid ground.

And thanks for sticking up for me about You and Yours. To be honest, after all these years it rolls like water off a duck’s back. I’ve seen so many ‘analyses’ picking over the details – entirely missing the much bigger picture. There are commercial realities that we cannot turn the tide on.

What we can do, however, is make sure that we integrate the world of supermarkets, betting shops and all, with inspiring independent retail.

It sounds like you’ve done just that.

Bravo to you Erica – and all the wonderful people you’ve partnered with over the years. And if a landlord does come good, please let me know. I’d love to visit Bedford again and celebrate all you’ve achieved.

Mary Portas

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