Dawson, 65, loves monogramming. The former market trader behind the Range discount stores has his initials embroidered into his tailor-made shirts, his shops' "R" logo etched onto his helicopter (the only way to pop in to his 115 – soon-to-be-150 – stores) and a registration plate on his Rolls-Royce that reads DE11 BOY – in homage to Dawson’s alter ego in Only Fools and Horses. Life is lovely jubbly for the wheeler-dealer whose success has far eclipsed that of his hero Derek Trotter.
Dawson started selling ice cream at the age of seven and cups of tea at 14, progressing to watches out of a briefcase, then to all kinds of everything flogged from the back of a lorry – with sales patter thrown in free. He opened his first superstore in 1989 in his home city, Plymouth. Proud of the Range’s reputation as “the working man’s John Lewis”, Dawson does a roaring trade and each customer makes a “ker-ching” sound in his head. He left school with no qualifications and has declared: “I’ve never written a letter in my life or read a book. I don’t care about that. Some people don’t get here by luck – they get here because they’re the very best. Now I’m doing deals for mega-millions.”
Last year he and wife Sarah, 54, who owns 40% of the business, paid themselves a dividend of £100m. The company saw its assets rise by £33m in 2015-16 and sales approached £675m in the £1.65bn family-owned operation. Dividends and other wealth top up the pile.
A Life in the Day: Chris Dawson