Gurchait Singh Chima, retail entrepreneur

Gurchait Singh Chima
Gurchait Singh Chima
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The entrepreneur Gurchait Singh Chima, who has died at 67, was the driving force behind the Bon Marche chain of ladies’ wear shops that had been founded originally in Doncaster by his father.

Born in Chima Kalan in the Punjab, as the middle brother of three, he had moved to the UK at six, initially to Cambridgeshire. His father, Parkash, who had taught himself to read and speak English, kept the family by going door to door on a pushbike selling nylons, shirts and any other clothing that was in short supply in the post-war years to the local farming community.

After school, Gurchait joined the family business, trading women’s clothing in the market stalls of East Anglia. He ascribed his strong work ethic to Parkash, who woke the children at 5am for the market day ahead.

In 1982, an opportunity arose to acquire a retail clothing business with 26 indoor market locations in the North of England. The acquisition however, would mean investing almost every penny the family had. But, convinced that it could be a life-changing opportunity for the family, and not doubting his son’s judgment, Mr Chima Snr agreed to go ahead.

While he continued to run the outdoor markets in East Anglia, Gurchait moved to Huddersfield, joining his cousin and a new business partner, Surjeet Khela, to set up the base for the new company.

In 1984, once the new business was on a sound footing, Mr Chima uprooted the rest of the family and moved to Huddersfield. In 1985, the first Bon Marche high street store was opened in Doncaster.

At its peak, Bon Marche was turning over £200m a year with more than 270 stores across the country. It also raised more than £1m for charity. The chain was sold to the Peacocks Group in 2002.

As Gurchait led the business, he gained a love for travel – especially to Europe and the Far East, from where he sourced fabrics and garments.

As much as he loved his work, he maintained a parallel passion for Manchester United, and he continued to hold a season ticket at Old Trafford. He spent his retirement travelling with his wife and family.

His wife Daljeet, children Sukie, Nina and Amardeep, and two grandchildren survive him.