The founder of Peterborough’s Kiddicare has spoken of his sadness at the retailer’s decline six years after the sale of the business netted him and his wife a £70 million fortune.
Entrepreneur Neville Wright created the baby equipment retailer with his wife Marilyn in 1974 and the couple ran it from their home in Bourges Boulevard, Peterborough.
But he has only been able to look on as a series of owners have seemingly struggled to get the full potential from the Kiddicare business.
Mr Wright says there was plenty of potential left in the baby equipment business when Morrisons saw it as the answer to the supermarket chain’s lack of an online service and made an offer to buy.
Yet three-and-a-half years later, Morrisons off-loaded Kiddicare for just £2 million to a private equity company following which it went through two more changes of ownership.
Now it belongs to the home furnishings group Dunelm, which has closed the Kiddicare call centre and put the Peterborough warehouse on the market.
Speaking at his Wansford home, Mr Wright said: “When I sold Kiddicare, everything - staff, warehouse, products, technology, branding - was in position to take Kiddicare from an annual £40 million turnover to £200 million turnover.
“Morrisons got a bargain.”
He said: “I am very sad at the way things have gone for Kiddicare. I am not happy about it. There are times when I would loved to have got involved again. I think it would have been very simple to turn it around. I could have doubled the turnover in 30 days.”
But Mr Wright added: “However, it was the right time for me to sell it.
“But I was traumatised to leave the business and to leave so many friends - those people I had worked with for so long.”
But Mr Wright is hopeful that there will still be a good outcome for Kiddicare.
He said: “I feel that Dunelm might be able to resurrect it.”
Creating and growing just one business to the point where it is snapped up for a small fortune would be considered job done for many people. But not Mr Wright who has built up a business portfolio worth £100 million since the moment when he spent 37 pence on a cloth to set up his own window cleaning service.
Mr Wright said: “Not many people know that I had already sold three nursery businesses previously, dating back over the last 36 years, plus a variety of businesses which include hairdressing salons, Indian restaurants and food outlets.
Even as he and Marilyn were getting Kiddicare off the ground they had also set up Marville Properties and were running the two side by side.
Today he has a multi-million pound residential commercial property portfolio with some impressive building projects through his development company Heidi Estates
In adddition, Mr Wright has spent the last three-and-a-half year writing his memoirs entitled ‘The Answer is Yes. Now what is the question? How I turned 37 pence into 100 million pounds.’
The 160,000 word book is an incredible achievement for Mr Wright, whose dyselexia has been a challenge from his schooldays.
The book can be bought from Amazon for £20 with some of the proceeds donated to the Lend with Care charity, which provides interest free loans for firms across the globe.
The charity symbolises Neville’s heartfelt belief that money must be made to work for the good of other people.
n Kiddicare was sold to Morrison for £70 million in 2011.
n July 2014 struggling Morrisons sold Kiddicare for just £2 million to private equity firm Endless LLP.
n September 2014 Following a restructure of Kiddicare, Endless sold the retailer to homes and gardens specialists Worldstores for an undisclosed sum.
n Dunelm buys Worldstores, and with it Kiddicare.