• Publication date: December 4, 2010

A Crash Course In Fashion Marketing Struggling Businesses Must Shape Up Or Shut Down

An easy way to describe �Mary Queen of Shops� (2007) may be to compare it to Gordon Ramsay�s �Hell�s Kitchen� (2004) but with fashion, not food. Throughout the series retail marketing guru Mary Portas visits struggling small businesses and attempts to whip them into shape in only a few weeks

An easy way to describe �Mary Queen of Shops� (2007) may be to compare it to Gordon Ramsay�s �Hell�s Kitchen� (2004) but with fashion, not food. Throughout the series retail marketing guru Mary Portas visits struggling small businesses and attempts to whip them into shape in only a few weeks. Certainly Portas is qualified to do so: she has worked with the likes of Louis Vuitton and the now-defunct rock band Oasis. However, Mary�s big break came after transforming an ordinary British department store into a national and international symbol of high-end fashion and quality. To put this into perspective, picture the complications of reinventing Wal-Mart as Saks Fifth Avenue and you will understand the magnitude of her achievements.

So who better to rescue fledgling mom and pop fashion boutiques? Portas delivers sharp, no nonsense criticism to store owners with no compulsion. Owners may remain stubborn and stick to their old ways, or accept change. With a certain doom facing most shops change should be a welcome risk, yet many resist innovation and suffer the consequences.

Unfortunate for some of these small businesses, yet perhaps luckily for audiences, the clients� reluctance to alter old habits provides viewers with entertainment. Sadistic yes, but what fun would it be to watch someone do everything right? Owners� mistakes often transcend mere mismanagement and are reflected in their own poor attitudes. Case in point, Portas� first client is Blinkz, a store targeting full-figured women. A fairly common and potentially profitable endeavor, but not in the hands of its proprietor Amanda Collins, who seems apathetic and at times downright hostile to the needs of big and beautiful women.

The first item on Mary�s agenda was to provide Amanda with a subtle form of sensitivity training. To achieve this she took her pupil to another, more successful shop for larger women. While there Collins learned that being overweight does not nullify the need for exceptional and tasteful fashion, and that her outdated inventory would need to be revamped. She also learned the seemingly obvious (to most) importance of emboldening customers by reaffirming their positive attributes; rather than focus on what Amanda may perceive as flawed she should emphasize what is more universally considered beautiful. In simpler terms, the more pleasant a customer�s experience the greater chance of their return.

Public response to �Mary Queen of Shops� has been generally positive. Like with reality shows such as �Hell�s Kitchen� and even �The Apprentice� (2005) entertainment is often entangled with nuggets of practical and sound advice. What may at face value appear to be unnecessary ridicule for the sake of dramatics is actually blunt advice that, if implemented, may lead to a long lasting and lucrative business.