Sometime in the early 1960s a young man by the name of Douglas Perkins landed himself a job in Ammanford Bowling Alley with the aim of scratching together enough money to fund his university career in Cardiff.

So humble were his family’s earnings that Doug was granted the maximum student grant available at the time, which amounted to £300 a year.

Fast forward 60 years and Douglas Perkins’ net worth now totals a staggering £1.330 billion. This, after all, is the man who owns Specsavers.

“I’m totally working class and throughout my entire career I’ve used it to my advantage,” he said. “It’s definitely given me an extra drive, there’s no doubt about that. When other people start thinking about slacking off, I continue to keep the same work ethic going, just as I’ve been doing for the past 50 years.”

Doug and his wife Mary, who he met at Cardiff University, opened the first Specsaver branch in 1984 on a table-tennis table in their spare bedroom at their home in Guernsey. The government had just deregulated professionals, including opticians, which allowed them to advertise their products and services. And so Doug and Mary seized the opportunity and quickly opened Specsaver outlets in Bristol, Plymouth, Swansea and Bath. Today Specsavers has over 2,000 stores nationwide and the company is the largest private optician chain, selling more than 15 million glasses each year and 380 million contact lenses.

In the past year the couple have added £130m to their fortune and this week Doug, 79, and Dame Mary, 78, were pronounced the third wealthiest people in Wales by the Sunday Times.


“Yes, the company has grown significantly, but I put its success down to my upbringing,” continues the policeman’s son. “If you don’t work, you don’t get on and this is the mantra I swear by to this day. And I imagine this work drive is one of the reasons we’ve never gone on the stock exchange. If he had, we’d have spent half our time listening to institutional shareholders. But my shareholders are out there on the shop floor.”