The pound shops have won us over
Blaming difficult market conditions over the last few months, Poundland has reported a disappointing 4.9% drop in like-for-like sales in the second half of its financial year. It should not, however, be taken as a sign that the future is looking less than bright for either this company or its competitors (which include Poundstretcher, B&M Bargains and Wilkinsons).
The disappointing sales figures are much more likely to be attributed to the not-unexpected disruption caused by their takeover of 99p Stores last year.
Recently published research by leading retail consultancy houses has indicated that the number of shoppers using pound shops has actually increased by an astonishing 20%. In fact, more than 50% of all shoppers say they head to pound shops every week to purchase everything from razor blades to bacon.
Some 77% of consumers are principally attracted by the cheap prices and spend an average of £8.93 on each visit. And 33% of consumers have visited a variety discounter at least once a week in the past month.
Some 57% of us buy confectionery, 54% purchase food, 48% shop for health and beauty products and 40% go to buy everyday household items, including crisps and snacks.
Post-recessionary shoppers are now frequenting pound shops with increasing regularity and retail research has highlighted the fact that they are actually price-comparing even in the discount category of retail outlets.
Stores offering everything for a pound have become a magnet for even wealthier shoppers, with approximately 53% of customers classified as middle class.
Those 53% of consumers patronising pound shops are in the A/B socio-economic grouping, where the average annual salary is in excess of £35,000.
We no longer have Woolworths on our high streets, but groups like Poundland (which took over the majority of vacant units left after the demise of that former paragon of retail excellence) appear to have won a place in the hearts and minds of consumers.
And there are now a plethora of online pound shops, too.
Donald C McFetridge is a retail analyst at Ulster University