The latest series of Mary, Queen of Shops, has captivated viewers once again. Straight-talking retail guru Mary Portas is overhauling independent British stores where the tills have stopped ringing. Over 6,500 applicants were eventually whittled down to six. Consistently compelling, often hilarious and sometimes touching, her fourth series has provided some of the summer's best TV moments. In anticipation of the season's finale next Monday, here are our favourite bits from the show so far.
1> Window Shopping
Portas wasn't over the moon with hippy homeware shop, Under The Moon. The pie-eyed owners, Dazzle and Denny, are stuck somewhere in the '70s. They don't want to lose their "quirkiness". They did lose €54,000 last year. "It may as well have 'utter shite' written above the door," says Portas. "See that glass shoe with the snail on the front? That's the most hideous sight I've ever seen in a shop window . . ."
2> Hear no evil, see no evil
Portas soon discovers that hairdresser, John Peers, who hasn't made a profit for five years, has a tendency to give customers hairstyles they don't want. When she allows him to give her a blowdry, he comments on her green eyes. They're brown. "Not only is John colour blind, he appears to be deaf as well," she quips.
3> Cutting Edge
Peers, is taken to London to visit old friend and celebrity stylist, Trevor Sorbie.
"Trevor is at the top of his game still and John has slipped back down and that's sad," says Mary sotto voce. In a bid to showcase his creative brio, Peers gets to work on model Lindsay's Rapunzelian locks. She wants to look like Cheryl Cole. He chops off so much that she leaves looking like Ashley.
4 >Let Them Eat Cake
Angela of anachronistic bakery, Maher & Sons, resists Portas's attempts to reinvent her offerings of iced buns and smiley-faced biscuits with "all this focaccia stuff". She places tenure time ahead of bottom line. "That's it, I've had it, I'm going to put my head in that oven," Portas seethed, before adding, "after hers . . ."
5> If You Can't Stand the Heat . . .
Mary is forced to hang up her baker's hat when Angela concedes that the retail consultant is one chef too many. "I don't want any unpleasantness," says the matriarch, "I just want you to leave me alone." The camera crew are later refused entry to the bakery. "No more filming in my shop. You can sue me if you like . . ."
6> Calendar Girls
Sex sells. Portas organised a promotional photoshoot for the greengrocer sisters, but failed to tell them that they would be wearing only fruit and vegetables, or rather bras made from carrots and asparagus necklaces.
7> Open for Business
This is the high street doyenne's fourth series because she gets the job done. Under the Moon ended up splashed across the pages of a high-end interiors magazine; the greengrocer sisters increased profit five-fold. Most impressive was the John Peers makeover: sophisticated black and white logo, luxury haircare products and the staff kitted out in modern uniforms. He takes in an extra €1,000 on Saturdays.
8> Fairy Godmother
Portas tells the greengrocer sisters exactly what she thinks: "If you were a customer, would you think 'fantastic, this looks great'? Honestly, three packs of beetroot, a half empty crate, crack at the back . . ." When they complain she goes on to remind them that the shop's overhaul is not a one-man job. "Don't think I'm coming in with a wand or a stick of celery, because I'm just not."
9> Supermarket Sweep
London couple, Chris and Juliet, who are running a struggling village shop in Dorset, tell Mary that they are buying in 4,000 lines despite losing £6,000 a month. The retail guru orders a "supermarket sweep", and clears unnecessary items from the shelves: "Mothballs! Who uses those anymore? Sliced carrots? Even if I had rheumatoid arthritis and I was 96, I could cut up a tinned carrot. Toilet Duck? Duck off."
10> House Call
It's easy to find hippy couple Denny and Dazzle's house in the estate when Portas makes a house call. It's the one painted bright blue in a row of otherwise identikit homes. These colours were actually quite fashionable at the time," offers Denny. "I know when that was," Portas replies, "when Fleetwood Mac were number one with their Rumours album."
The last episode of the current series of Mary, Queen of Shops is on Monday on BBC2 at 9pm