18 (-) Tony Wilkinson and family £350m (-)

Tony Wilkinson’s father opened his first store in Leicester in 1930. Now 78 years later Wilkinson has nearly 300 stores around the country and turns over more than a billion pounds.

Wilkinson’s "pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap" principals have resulted in one of the UK’s most successful chains of hardware and convenience stores. Since its formation the company has expanded its range to cover clothing, perfumes and toys, with many of its offerings under its own Wilko brand.

The firm’s founder, JK Wilkinson died in 1997, and his son Tony Wilkinson, now 70, has retired. The business is now run by the granddaughters of its founder, Karin Swann and Lisa Wilkinson.

The company has its HQ and a distribution centre in Manton Wood, Notts, and has opened a second distribution centre in Magor, Wales.

Wilkinsons plans to have more than 500 stores in the UK by 2012 and its store openings continue apace. Recent openings include stores in Longton, Banbury, Market Drayton, Chelmsley Wood, Cardiff, Oswestry, Brownhills and and Swansea, with others planned.

In the year to February 2007 the company increased its turnover to £1,455 million despite high levels of competition, a softening of the retail market and price deflation. The company has net assets of more than £140 million.