For each of the past 10 years the Hexham Book Festival has gone from strength to strength. This year’s festival is just finishing and has showcased a diverse and exciting range of authors – including politicians David Owen and Vince Cable, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author Louis de Bernières and ex Communards member the Reverend Richard Coles.
One of the headline events in this year’s programme on Wednesday this week was TV celebrity and retail guru Mary Portas and we were delighted when the organisers asked Katie Kerr to sponsor this slot.
Promoting her new book “Shop Girl”, Mary Portas aka “Queen of Shops” delighted the packed audience in the Forum Cinema with stories of her early life. At the age of 18, after the death of both her parents, she was awarded a place at RADA but turned it down to care for her younger brother. Mary already showed the determent and charismatic personality that she is known for today. She is an inspirational person and has a great “can do” attitude that has brought her to the top of the tree in the retail industry.
From being a window dresser in Harrods to a member of the board at Harvey Nicols before the age of thirty, she then set up her own consultancy business and having being spotted by a television producer whilst appearing on the Richard and Judy show she was catapulted into a public eye with the television series – Mary Queen Shops.
Her work in promoting retail as a government adviser and through her television programs, has created an insight into the retail world and its importance to the economy.
It was refreshing to hear her views about the current state of retail and her criticism of out of town shopping. She believes that the high street should not be confined to the graveyard and explained how customers have become more discerning and are searching for shopping experiences that offer individuality and great personal enthusiastic service.
All this was music to our ears as it mirrors our ethos here at Katie Kerr.