Bonmarche founder dies at 86 among Sikh friends
18 Feb, 2010
An outstanding Sikh businessman who started a fashion empire by pedalling door to door on a bike selling nylons, shirts and other clothing. has died aged 86, a much-loved figure, in Yorkshire, England.
Parkash Singh Chima founded the Bonmarche womenswear retail group in 1985, 35 years after arriving in the UK from the Punjab, and built it, with his sons, into a business with more than 300 stores.
He died at Huddersfield’s Sikh Leisure Centre as he arrived there on February 13 to play cards with fellow Sikhs, a regular pastime in his retirement. The centre holds regular social gatherings for elderly members of the community.
The Huddersfield Examiner newspaper reported that Mr Chima, of Kirkburton, travelled in his Rolls Royce Ghost to Huddersfield’s Sikh Temple and walked to the nearby Sikh Leisure Centre to join friends of many years standing.
A family friend told the newspaper that at 1pm, as he was about to take his seat, he suddenly collapsed and passed away peacefully among his friends.
When he arrived in the UK Mr Chima settled in Ely, Cambridgeshire, from where he launched his door to door sales of clothing items that were in demand after the war.
According to the Examiner he developed the business into markets in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, working with a tireless dedication that he instilled into his sons Mohan, Gurchait and Gurnaik, who all joined the family business.
The family bought two retail clothing firms in 1982 – Wiltex and Hartley – in partnership with his nephew Surjeet Khela. The companies had 26 indoor market locations across the north of England and Mr Chima moved to Huddersfield with Gurchait and Gurnaik, leaving Mohan to run the business in Ely.
The first Bonmarche store opened in Doncaster in 1985 and this was the start of the chain that grew into more than 300 stores, with a turnover of more than £200m. Mr Chima retired and left two sons to run the business, before they sold to the Peacock Group in 2002.
He was a prominent and respected member of the Sikh community, always at the forefront of fundraising activities for charitable purposes.
The Peacock Group says Bonmarche is the UK’s largest value retailer selling affordable quality womenswear in a wide range of sizes (12-24) to women over 45 years. Ranges include casual and formal separates, outerwear, swimwear, lingerie nightwear and accessories, all designed with the more mature figure in mind.
Bonmarche has over 380 stores nationwide with a growing high street presence. It employs over 4,000 employees with head offices and warehouse distribution based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.