Thursday, 20 January 2011
I Heart Secret Shopper
January just got a whole lot better... my Old Best Friend, Mary Portas (OBFMP) is back. And for the first episode of the new series, Secret Shopper, the focus is on fast fashion. Portas visits high street fashion stores, H&M, Zara, Primark and Pilot - the brand we thought was dead and buried but is clinging onto life in a dreary shopping outlet in Braintree, Essex. In a seventies wig - and flat shoes! - the Undercover Queen of Shops goes in-store with a hidden camera to find out what customer service on the high street is really like. Wearing mostly ACNE, a Burberry trench (spring/summer 2011 collection) and a fabulous fuchsia Roland Mouret dress, some may argue that shopping on the high street is not an experience OBFMP is familiar with but I think that's a bit unfair. Portas is the Telegraph's shopping columnist after all, and during the course of the programme, in a move that would make Sam Cam proud, she dons a red shirt from Whistles. Here's Mary in disguise. Personally, I quite like the seventies/Joan Jett vibe.
Anyhow, unsurprisingly the customer service is shoddy. Shop assistants are either bored stiff or too busy to help customers and Portas is horrified to find that they don't know an aviator jacket from a pair of harem pants - what's wrong with these people? Don't they read Grazia? With her three golden rules: smile, speak and serve, OBFMP persuades the owner of Pilot to revamp one of his stores, turning a cubicle the size of a toilet into a fabulous changing hub complete with Twitter mirror and celebrity names above each door, guaranteed to make any shopper feel like a star - are you feeling Gaga/ Cheryl/Rhianna today?
Fast fashion may be an easy target but this is entertaining stuff. The show ends with Portas charging down a pedestrianised street with a flash mob of peaceful protesters heading for Primark where, in their 'Smile, Speak, Serve' logo t-shirts they offer bemused shoppers the customer service they truly deserve. And at the end of the day, Portas is right. Sadly, in fast fashion stores like this, service is stripped back, employees are given very little, if any, proper training and are bound to feel disaffected because to some retailers a hefty profit - rather than the people who work or shop in their stores - is all that matters. But, as David Mitchell pointed out on The Graham Norton Show last week, 'The nation's misery is the show's strength.'
Next week I'm hoping for a posh accent and a Kate Middleton wig.
If you missed The Graham Norton Show, check out this hilarious discussion on rubbish shop names.
Did you see Secret Shopper - what do you think about service on the high street?