Hard work and a good idea mark out the retailers who make the Rich List, says Lord Kirkham

I was delighted to pick up TheSunday Times supplement the other day and read that I am now worth a billion pounds.

I have been looking for it ever since – starting, naturally enough, with a hunt down the back of the sofa. I was also thrilled to find that I have apparently discovered the secret of eternal youth, though sadly I have to admit that the image in my bathroom mirror does not quite match the one unearthed from The Times picture library – no surprise there, it was taken more than 15 years ago.

The paper also noted, correctly, that I am happy. But it would be wrong to assume a direct link between contentment and the possession of a few quid. There are plenty of miserable gits who are as rich as Croesus, and my parents were happy enough even though they sometimes struggled to pay the rent.

Having experienced both a type of poverty and modest affluence, I won’t deny which I prefer. As somebody once said, “money may not buy you happiness, but at least you can be miserable in luxury”.

But I worry that a generation is growing up which thinks that wealth and celebrity are the only worthwhile goals in life, and that they are as simple to achieve as success in a TV talent show. A double mistake. 

The vast majority of those on the Rich List it seems to me got there through a great deal of hard work. And I don’t mean working at lobbying the editor. 

There are few obvious alternatives, apart from the lottery and marriage; and I suspect that the nine ladies (plus Guy Ritchie) on the ‘millionaires from divorce’ list would argue that they also worked hard for their payouts.

The presence of 40-odd retailers on the Rich List underlines again that this is a good game for making money for those with the inspiration and the willingness to graft to turn dreams into reality. 

And while the Westons, Sainsburys and Fenwicks may well have derived some slight advantage from inheritance, most of those who have made megabucks from retail started with nothing more than an idea.

Race and creed are clearly no barriers to success, and nor is sex, in both senses. My fellow columnist Jacqueline Gold is doing splendidly stimulating the nation through Ann Summers, while Dame Mary Perkins has made it into the billionaire club by helping us with our unaccountably deteriorating eyesight. I am sure that these facts have no connection whatsoever.

Scanning the list of retailers, it would be safe to say that there are some fairly substantial egos among them, including my own (hence this column). 

And while a huge ego is not absolutely mandatory for business success it can certainly help. A generous portion of self-belief and a touch of selfishness can definitely be useful in helping overcome the many hurdles and pitfalls en route to success.

Making it big time has never been easy, but shopkeeping is a gloriously dynamic business and the Rich List of successful retailers is most certainly not a closed shop. I wish you every success.