Douglas and Dame Mary Perkins and family
Rank 2017

Sales at Specsavers rose by nearly 6% to £2.18bn in 2015-16, clearing £2bn for the first time. Founded in 1984 by Douglas Perkins, 74, and his wife Mary, 73, the company in the last reported year sold 19.5m pairs of glasses, 400m contact lenses and 281,000 hearing aids.
   However, their business is probably better known for the “Should’ve gone to Specsavers” ads that have featured John Cleese reprising his Basil Fawlty alter ego. It has even gone to the lengths of successfully trademarking “should’ve” and “shouldve” in an attempt to protect its much-parroted slogan. Specsavers, which has more than 1,800 outlets and a workforce of over 30,000, has grown rapidly thanks to its partnership approach whereby each practice is a joint venture between the company and individual opticians.
   Mary, who frequently visits the stores, sometimes in disguise, was made a dame in the Queen's 2007 birthday honours list. The 2015 float of rival GrandVision, parent of Vision Express, for £3.7bn should warrant a £1.6bn valuation for Specsavers.
   Famously frugal, the founders still live in the same four-bedroom house in Guernsey they acquired more than 35 years ago after moving to the island to be close to Mary’s parents. Taking another strong year into account, we raise them to £1.6bn.

The joy of specs