Retail expert Mary Portas upbeat over Harrogate town centre future

Mary Portas
Mary Portas

A Harrogate business owner has called on Harrogate Borough Council to work more closely with independents and support them in their fight to survive.

Sophie Hartley, who runs the independent gift shop Sophie Likes on Beulah Street, coined the idea after attending a discussion with retail consultant and presenter Mary Portas.

The television star appeared at The Crown Hotel in July as part of Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival, run by Harrogate International Festivals.

As well as meeting her “inspiration”, Sophie was even able to ask the retail expert for her best advice on how a new local business could survive on the high street.

She said: “Mary has been a massive inspiration to me and I have always followed her and loved her programmes.

“The most refreshing thing about the talk was her positivity about the future of the British high street. It was so refreshing to hear her say that there are always going to be shops on the high street.

“She did say that the biggest threat to the high street was business rates and that unless councils work alongside local business and independents, then nothing will change.

“We could do with someone on the council who represents independents in the town centre so there is a link between the two. At the moment it feels like us against them.”

The Harrogate Advertiser is currently running a ‘Love our Indies’ campaign to promote and celebrate the wide range of unique independent shops across the town.

Sophie has been a keen supporter of the campaign and said that the television presenter and columnist was a keen supporter of these initiatives.

She said: “Mary is a great supporter of campaigns to save the independents. She wants that message of ‘Love our Indies’ .

“The Advertiser has done a great job of making people realise how important it is to support independents. If they don’t they won’t be there in the future.

“Mary is a massive supporter of that. More and more people are becoming aware of the fact if you don’t go to these places then it won’t be there in a year’s time.”

However, despite the amount of chain restaurants opening in Harrogate, including at the new Everyman cinema complex, Sophie said she supported their arrival in the town.

She said: “At least there are places opening in Harrogate and that these places are coming here

“Harrogate is becoming a more exciting place to visit because places are opening and not shutting down. You have to look for the positive in this as it encourage more people to come into town.”