James Kemsey Wilkinson

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James Kemsey Wilkinson (December 1906 – December 1997) was an English businessman, the founder of the high street chain Wilko. In 2014, it was reported that Wilko had 372 stores, 23,000 employees and annual revenues of £1.5 billion.[1]

Early life[edit]

James Kemsey Wilkinson was born in December 1906.[2]


Together with his fiancée, Mary Cooper, he founded Wilkinson Cash Stores in Leicester in 1930, opening their first store there at 151 Charnwood Street.[3] His brother Donald already had a hardware store in Birmingham, and two of his stores in Handsworth later joined the chain. In 1932, they opened their second store, in Wigston.[3][4]

In 1937, his brother John joined as a director.[4]

He ceased to be a director of Wilko on 18 December 1997.[2] He died in 1997.[3]

The company remains in the ownership of his family.[5]

Personal life[edit]

He married Mary Cooper on 22 October 1934 at St Peter's, Highfields, Leicester at 8am, and they were both back in the shop by 11am.[4]

Their son, Tony Wilkinson was born in 1937.[4]


  1. ^ Ruddick, Graham (2014-08-02). "Wilkinson family split after 84 years in retail". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2017-10-11.
  2. ^ a b "James Kemsey WILKINSON - Personal Appointments (free information from Companies House)". beta.companieshouse.gov.uk. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Stephen Butt (30 October 2013). The History of Leicester in 100 People. Amberley Publishing Limited. pp. 118–. ISBN 978-1-4456-1698-8. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d http://www.insightdiy.co.uk/live/products/506a.pdf
  5. ^ Ruddick, Graham (7 July 2015). "Wilkinson family net £63m by selling stake in retail empire". The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 March 2016.