Queen of Shops to help Government

Mary Portas, the so-called 'Queen of Shops', has been appointed to lead a review into the future of the high street in a bid to boost business.

The Government wants leading retail consultant Ms Portas to advise on how to tackle the problem of vacant stores, preventing "clone towns" and increasing the number of small and independent retailers.

As part of her review, she will visit a number of town centres across England and report back with her findings by the autumn.

Ms Portas, who has previously tried to turn around the fortunes of ailing retailers in BBC TV show Mary Queen Of Shops, said: "With town centre vacancy rates doubling over the last two years the need to take action to save our high streets has never been starker.

"I am calling on businesses, local authorities and shoppers to contribute their ideas on how we can halt this decline in its tracks and create town centres that we can all be proud of."

Prime Minister David Cameron said he was confident Portas' "straight-talking, no-nonsense approach" would help bring the bustle back to Britain's high streets.

He added: "The high street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment.

"So it is vital that we do all that we can to ensure they thrive."

News of the review comes after economic think-tank Ernst & Young Item Club said the consumer spending outlook appeared bleak. A report by the group said household incomes had fallen to their lowest level since 1977. As a result, it predicted high street retailers face nearly a decade of pain as the squeeze on family finances tightens.

(c) Sky News 2011