Mary Portas hits out at Tesco chief

TV PRESENTER and Westminster retail tsar Mary Portas has criticised the former boss of Tesco after he defended the dominance of supermarkets.

Sir Terry Leahy described the rise of supermarkets and the closure of small shops across the country as “part of progress” in a recent radio interview.

While critics have accused the supermarket giant of driving smaller independent shops out of business and turning town centres into ghost towns, Sir Terry called some high streets “medieval” and said the way people lived had changed.

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TV shopping queen Portas, 52, who was brought in by the Prime Minister to help breathe life into struggling high streets, dismissed Sir Terry’s claims.

She said: “When Sir Terry Leahy, the former chief executive of Tesco, was on Desert Island Discs recently, [presenter] Kirsty Young suggested to him that Tesco was putting the small butcher out of business.

“And Leahy said if the butcher was good enough, people would still be shopping there. That’s absolutely crap.”

She added: “Fifty pence of every pound is spent on food. If you take that off the high street and put it into an … out-of-town store, and you provide free parking and everything under one roof, then you start to take away not only the food shops, but also the chemist, the fashion shops, the butcher … you start to displace the whole high street.”

Portas said the high street was not doomed but it needs “to be multifunctional”.

“As well as having shops, it should be where you go for your doctor or your dentist. There might be a youth club, crèche or yoga studio to act as ‘anchors’ to attract people in.”