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?