She was responsible for window displays at Harrods for three years, and subsequently became creative director of Harvey Nichols. In 1997 she set up her own retail and brand agency. She is considered a leading authority on brands and retail, and has hosted a number of television shows, including Mary Queen of Shops.
In May 2011, she was appointed by the Prime Minister David Cameron to lead an independent review into the future of the British high street. She published her report The Portas Review in December 2011. She has stated that the aim of her review is to "put the heart back into the centre of our High Streets, re-imagined as destinations for socialising, culture, health, wellbeing, creativity and learning".
On 4 February 2012, the minister for local government announced that towns across England could bid to become "Portas Pilot Areas". In May 2012, the twelve towns to be helped were announced as: Bedford, Croydon, Dartford, Bedminster (Greater Bristol), Liskeard, Margate, Market Rasen, Nelson, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Stockport, Stockton-on-Tees and Wolverhampton. In July 2012, fifteen more towns were announced : Ashford, Berwick, Braintree, Brighton (London Road), Hatfield, Royal Leamington Spa (Old town), Liverpool (Lodge Lane), Waterloo, Forest Hill, Tower Hamlets (Chrisp Street, Watney Market and Roman Road), Loughborough, Lowestoft, Morecambe, Rotherham and Tiverton.
Mary Portas was born and brought up in Rickmansworth. She was married to Graham Portas for 14 years and together they had a son and daughter. She now lives in Maida Vale with her civil partner, Grazia magazine fashion features editor Melanie Rickey and her children, after an amicable divorce from her husband.
- http://www.bis.gov.uk/news/topstories/2011/May/high-street-review "Mary Portas reviews the future of the high street"
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18212669 "High Streets to share £1.2m funding", BBC, 26 May 2012
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18972391 "Fifteen towns share £1.5m aid to revive High Streets" BBC 25 July 2012
- http://www.queeried.co.uk/mary-portas-melanie-rickey-wedding/ "WARNING: Very Stylish Mary Portas and Melanie Rickey Wedding Photos Inside" Queeried magazine 2 June 2010
- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-458826/Im-Mary-Queen-Shops--advice-shopping-need.html Sarah Sands, "I'm Mary, Queen of Shops — with all the advice on shopping you need" Daily Mail, 1 June 2007