In The Spotlight: The businessman who wants to put the shirt on your back

Nick Wheeler
  • @davidprosserind

Slowly but surely, Charles Tyrwhitt is catching up the business it has in its sights. With sales totalling £65m last year, the upmarket shirt-maker is no longer that far behind The White Company, the household goods concern where turnover is about £80m a year.

Why the contest between the two retailers? Well, Nick Wheeler, the founder and chief executive of Charles Tyrwhitt, has good reason to focus on The White Company in particular. It it is the business founded and still run by his wife, Chrissie Rucker. The couple are hugely supportive of each other but also fiercely competitive.

With the expansion announced yesterday (Mr Wheeler plans to open 50 new stores across the country, a sizeable expansion on the current 12-strong branch network) he may have bragging rights at home this weekend.

Still, this move has been a long time coming. Two years ago, speculation was rife that Charles Tyrwhitt was planning a flotation on the Alternative Investment Market and the sort of expansion mooted yesterday. The financial crisis ended those plans, with far fewer well-heeled City boys around to buy Mr Wheeler's shirts.

No matter. The Eton-educated retailer has had to bide his time before. Before he got Charles Tyrwhitt firing on all cylinders, there were a number of other entrepreneurial false starts – like the Christmas tree business that strangely only seemed to make money at a certain time of the year.

As for the uxorial rivalry, the two business leaders both have plenty to gain from each other. Mr Wheeler, after all, owns 1 per cent of his wife's business, though she told an interviewer last year that she was waiting for the return favour.