Byline: BY VICTORIA WARD
HE'S one of Britain's richest men - but Top Shop tycoon Sir Philip Green is monitoring the credit crunch as closely as everyone else.
And the king of the High Street declares he knows how to fix the problem - returning to a time when banks had the personal touch and Britons kept a tight rein on credit.
Speaking exclusively to the Mirror from his central London HQ, Sir Philip, worth pounds 3.6billion, says: "We have got into this situation because credit at every single level has been too available.
"People have been encouraged to take on debt. Everybody wants a bigger house, a better car, to go on holiday. If it's made easy, people do it." Despite that, the affable mogul, 56, insists the country's financial woes have been exaggerated and urges people to remain upbeat.
"A lot of what is currently going on, even for myself, is too complex for people to comprehend," he says.
"But when we go back to basics, we need to remember this country had 10 years of steady growth and low inflation - and everybody over that period, in different ways, is better off.
Now have people over-extended themselves? Probably. I believe there's going to be some fallout but is it as bad as people are saying? I don't believe it is."
As if to prove the point, Sir Philip, - whose Top Shop chain launched Kate Moss's fashion range - is trying to buy pounds 1billion of debts owed by Icelandic retail investment group Baugur. That would see him effectively take over its UK operations, which include Oasis, Iceland, Hamleys and Jane Norman.
The mogul believes sound one-to-one financial advice from bank managers can help many struggling Brits weather the storm. He says: "If people can't pay their mortgage they need to go and see their bank manager, like the old days.
"There needs to be advice centres, banks need to be available. The unknown is always much, much worse than the known. We can lessen the fallout if people can go and see someone."
There is no denying he should know what he's talking about.
From starting out in business at just 20, the billionaire - like Kate born in Croydon, South London - is Britain's ninth richest man. His retail empire covers 2,300 UK stores and includes BhS and Dorothy Perkins. Sir Philip believes many small business owners can survive if they tighten their belts. He advises: "It's about managing things that you've never managed in the past. …