Poundland boosted by penny-wise customers

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Thrifty bargain-hunters helped boost sales in budget retailer Poundland during the Christmas period.

Like-for-like sales at the stores, at which everything is sold for a pound, rose 3.9 per cent rise for the five weeks to January 4 compared with the same period last year.

Total sales, including those in stores that have been opened in the past year, rose nearly a quarter, or 24.3 per cent.

The chain, owned by private equity company Advent International, intends to open another 30 stores in the next year, creating an estimated 1,000 jobs.

“We’re busy most of the time, but over Christmas it just went bananas,” said Jim McCarthy, chief executive of Poundland.

But Mr McCarthy denied that the good interim figures were purely as a result of the recession. He said the chain had changed its core product lines as it looked to take advantage of customers searching for bargains even on basic shopping.

“Food now makes up 30 per cent of our range, and we are increasing our line in cleaning products too,” he said.

The company has suffered from the weak pound when buying abroad, because it cannot charge more than a pound for its products. But the overall effect of the global downturn had been to help purchasing efforts, Mr McCarthy said.

“In the Far East, for example, manufacturers are chasing fewer sales. That, added to the lowest shipping costs for 18 years, means we have been able to keep costs low,” he said.

Although the company is benefiting from the downturn, Mr McCarthy denied that it would lose customers during a recovery.

“Some of the shopping habits that have been acquired during this recession will stick,” he said. “People will have enjoyed finding value and will continue to do so.”

Poundland’s Christmas sales figures continue the trend of supermarkets and budget retailers picking up customers from more upmarket stores. Christmas sales rose at budget retailer Peacocks, as well as Greggs, the baker, and Domino’s, the pizza delivery chain, but fell at Marks and Spencer and House of Fraser.

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