In praise of Pound shops

I know that many people hate Pound shops and see them as being pretty much the fifth horseman of the apocalypse but they do have their place.

On Saturday I bought a gift for a child at Early Learning Centre in the Ealing Broadway Centre. Being in a hurry I wanted one of those gift bag thingies to present it in. Being a simple man of a certain age I thought stationary – WH Smiths! In I went and found a rather attractive gift bag that would certainly have appealed to the mother of the tot although it might have been a bit sophisticated for the child herself. I went to queue up and found about ten people waiting on one till.

As I was in a hurry I flung my prospective purchase towards a display and marched out in a huff. What now? What about the Pound shop two doors down? Five minutes later I had found a perfectly pleasant gift bag (one which passed muster with my wife I might add), paid for it and got out of the shop again. Pound shop 1, WH Smith 0.

Pound shops, and their close relative the Asian-owned cheap hardware store, have an important role to play. They keep the large multiples honest with their merchandising and packaging. We all bemoan the march of supermarkets and large multiples and laud independent traders when they are bijou boutique shops but we forget that these Pound shops and hardware stores too are often independents working on small margins. Some people might call their wares cheap tat but do you really want an expensive basket to put your wet washing in or something you picked up for very little from your friendly local cheap hardware store? Often these people are providing items from which the multiples could not make sufficient profit. How else would you get hold of this stuff?

11 replies on “In praise of Pound shops”

Exactly… where I am in this part of London there aren’t any of these shops (or at least in any place it’s safe to visit) so when visiting other towns I get funny looks when I get over-excited when seeing those essential everyday bits&bobs for a few pence that I thought didn’t even exist on ebay anymore.


I am all for Pound shops, but not if they are growing like mushrooms because the council planners let Ealing go downmarket.

Also I am all for a provocative web blog for Ealing people as well. But not when its cabinet member owner starts to get deaf and flippant and forgets he is a representative of the people.

Everyone on the street says the Tories got in on the back of the anti tram vote. There is a huge amount of anger in the borough about developments in Dickens Yard as well as in other parts of the borough. When in the last 30 years was the community last so engaged? Everyone in 2 years time will have very long memories about what the Tories are doing to the town centre.
Pound shops are very good evidence of where the Tories are leading the borough by the nose. Your blog was a wind up rather than a responsible comment.



It is an easy insult to call my comments flippant. They would be dull to both write and read without any recourse to humour however laboured. If you are saying that public office requires a humour bypass then I think you are just wrong. You are not related to John “Monstrous regiment” Knox are you?

I don’t know where you get deaf from. I think what you mean is that you don’t hear me telling you what you want to hear.

I have not spoken out in favour of either of the two developments going on in the town centre. I have though challenged some of the arguments being made against them. I make the contention that it is entirely unrealistic to suppose that Ealing Broadway can be a Crossrail node and that this won’t drive some densification of the town centre. Even the sainted Peter Hall has said he “wouldn’t have any quarrel with the principle of densification in central Ealing”.

I am happy for the planning committee to look at these applications on their merits. If they are too tall, too dense or whatever it is up to the planning committee to decide. The way that opponents of these schemes have tried to confuse the debate with spurious arguments has not been very edifying in my opinion. I have been particularly unimpressed with some of the personal comments made about the planning committee members themselves. The members spend an awful lot of time visiting development sites, reading papers and deliberating on the cases before them. The comments made about them are unfair and uninformed.

Independent retailers, such as Pound shops, play a useful role in the retail competitive landscape. I was trying to make a serious point albeit delivered as an anecdote.


Wow – it’s a strange system wherebye you can’t or won’t represent the interests of your electors in what is the biggest financial decision taken by Ealing Council for some 25 years. By any normal distribution of objectors, Northfield Ward probably had 300 or so objectors to each of the Dickens Yard and The Leaf1 housing estate proposals and only a handful of approvers.

Peter Hall didn’t advocate the centre of Ealing being exclusively filled by two interlinked housing estates of 1,200+ flats and 40 odd shops.

Still I could be wrong about the importance of the Dickens Yard decsion as Ealing Council still don’t deem it newsworthy enough to publish the decision on their Home Page. Why is that Phil?

‘…confuse the debate…’ oh dear, so unspecific.

As for the performance of most of the Planning Committee Panel, their level of probing, commenting and erudition was quite clearly inadequate.

One Pound shop in Ealing centre and one in West Ealing centre does it for me.


Politics national or local is such a mysterious activity to the man in the street. You say you are happy for our planners to look at the applications. Of Course. But it would have been the Councillors who were the sanctioners of policy that we should have a large development. What goes on behind closed doors we will never know.

What we are talking about is the sense that politicians ride roughshod over what the local people want or do not want. That is where the issue of deafness arises and where the results of the hearing tests will come up in 2010, when it is tempting to predict that the RNID will only have a small number of new customers.

I am sure you know why I think your article was flippant, but to spell it out, you are only too well aware that one of the objections to what is happening in Ealing is that the borough is going downmarket. Many people are angry with that, and to the extent that the Council has a UDP, there is not enough evidence that the Council is trying to counter this trend let alone follow its UDP. So if you extol Pound shops per se that is fine by me, but as Dickens Yard and Arcadia are so in the news at present, it is impossible for the man on the street not to make a connection between Cabinet Councillor’s policy and Pound shops in mushroom mode.

I was not intending to insult you but to draw to your attention that the exercise of insensitivity has its boundaries. I also am much more prepared to listen to politicians who have a highly developed sense of wit or humour – a commodity in very short supply.

Where I have a problem with the planners and the Planning committees is that while their decision documents show that they have considered the issues, and I am sure they try to do so generally pretty fully, they do not explain HOW and WHY they arrived at the decision on each point of an application. We also know the Planning Dept is extremely stretched. How can the man in the street be so very sure that no stone is left unturned? Perhaps you would persuade the Planners to adopt a more open way of writing up their decisions, and enrol a couple more highly experienced staff.



Forgive me but that is a cheap line. Arf, arf.

Anyone in Ealing knows that all the upmarket shops are on the Green. Stuff (Rupa as a girl I would expect you to know this store well), Baby E, Whisk, etc. Don’t forget Monsoon and Warehouse on the Broadway.

We have lost some of our high street chains to Westfield but I am not sure that is the end of the world.

Although George above says that many people are angry with the borough going downmarket he has to acknowledge market forces. If the people that live in the town centre’s hinterland don’t use it is not surprising that its businesses try to attract those that do use it. If they come from points north and west and have less to spend then call it going downmarket but stand by to repel the charge of snobbery. There are many excellent businesses in our town centre. It is a case of use them or lose them.


Thanks for this insight Phil. As well as the withdrawal of all Arcadia group outlets from the shopping centre, lending it more and more ofa morgue-type atmosphere, I notice that Tchibo too (a chain which has its head office in Ealing) now is closing down. When I asked a staffer there (dressed in amangerial livery) they said something along the lines of “Don’t blame me, I don’t make the decisions” but revealed that it was “Ealing council rates” that had done for them. At the other end of the spectrum I notice that the Gallery Tavid in St Mary’s Road (small independent artist type) has a sign with a similar message. Surely Tory Ealing Council shouldbe supportive of businesses? – big and small – rather than let them go to the wallone by one.



Let me give you a lesson in taxation. I may only get this half right but here goes.

Business rates are the same everywhere in England. They were orignally called the Uniform Business Rate and bought in to replace the old business rates system under Margaret Thatcher to stop looney-left local authorities taxing businesses out of business.

Nowadays businesses pay a levy which is linked to the valuation of their premises made by the Valuation Office Agency. This valuation or “rateable value” gets updated periodically and is multiplied by a factor set centrally by the government every year. This year the Standard multiplier is 46.2p and the Small business multiplier is 45.8p.

So business rates are a tax set by the government and totally out of the hands of local authorities. Local authorities are though the agency that collects the business rates and passes them back to government.


Hi Phil, thanks for the above. I think before the patronising detours your point was that Ealing is a great place foe poundshops. Hate to be the bearer of bad news but my observation of last year that commerce is leaving the borough in droves is confirmed by this news:

Even Poundlandland is closing, notwithstanding that all indications suggest that just about everywhere else in the nation the chain is booming, and is a real winner of the recession

See today’s Guardian

Ealing has weathered recessions before but this one seems to be hitting its shops most acutely which is very sad.



Why do refer to what I wrote as patronising? Where did you buy your last laundry basket, drying rack or washing up bowl? There are very few high street stores that will carry these items because they are bulky and low margin. Pound stores and cheap hardware stores do stock them and do perform a very useful role on the high street. Sorry but you are out of order.

You refer to the Poundland in West Ealing. Unless someone can prove to me to the contrary I am very happy to believe that their short lease (referred to in the article) came to an end. Can we have grown up conversation based on the facts please?


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