In the tradition of many Jewish immigrants, my father was in the clothing business (as was his father) and he had been remarkably successful. After leaving school at fifteen, he grew a business selling cheap clothes for women. He was close friends with, and a competitor of, Philip Green of Topshop fame. He was equally flash too – aged 25, he drove a gold Rolls-Royce. At its peak, the business ran more than twenty shops across South East England.
As well as being successful, my father was an addict. He was the eldest of four brothers and the most revered. Money was important in his family. Friday night dinner would start when my father arrived, whether everyone was there or not. The problem was that, although he was earning cash, the business was not terribly profitable.
The first addictive behaviour I recall (aside from the simultaneous chewing of nicotine gum and smoking of cigarettes) involved him driving from shop to shop to revel in the amount of cash in the tills or the safe. His buzz depended on the thickness of the wads of notes. But the addict is insatiable, and so he would drive to the next shop, and the next.
Little if any thought was given to whether it was money to be spent or not. He only focused on the return, blind to the risk involved.
This addiction manifested in more shops, bigger floor plans and more stock, piled high without any thought of the customers’ experience. As long as the economy, and his business, was growing, paying attention to the risks was irrelevant. If he could keep the plates spinning, the cash would keep flowing.