Date Published: 24-06-2014

The retail industry has produced some of the best-known business leaders and entrepreneurs in Britain. Ask any member of the public to name a British businessmen, and personalities such as Sir Philip Green, Sir Terry Leahy, Sir Stuart Rose and Justin King are likely to be on the list.

Over the past decade and more, they have shaped the high street; and, before Sir Philip, Sir Terry, Sir Stuart and King, it was no different.

Retailers are synonymous with their founders and leaders, who have an ability to shape a business in their image perhaps like no other.

For years, retailing was dominated by figures such as Sir Jack Cohen, the founder of Tesco, Sir Ken Morrison, the man built Morrisons into a nationwide food retailer, and Sir Stanley Kalms, who ran Dixons. Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer was run by members of its founding family until the 1980s, with Sir Richard Greenbury then growing the high street retailer’s profits to £1bn for the first time in 1998.

The industry is inherently entrepreneurial, with many of the biggest retailers beginning life as a single market stall. M&S started as a penny bazaar in Leeds in 1884, Tesco was a market stall in London’s East End, while Sir Philip used a £20,000 loan to start importing jeans from the Far East to sell to retailers in London.