Pound shops may have proliferated in the downturn, but unlike the Aldis and Lidls of this world, not all have prospered - and some have taken a pounding. In its latest results, Poundworld posted a 34% fall in pre-tax profits and in the first part of entertaining if not particularly informative new series Pound Shop Wars (8pm, BBC1, 6 February), boss Chris Edwards admits “it’s a war every day” when you’re just a couple of doors down from the likes of US-owned Poundland - especially when the latter is temporarily ‘97p-land’.
So how to compete? A £1 bra, of course. Despite looking, well, like it cost a quid, the “secret weapon in a full-frontal assault to bazooka their rivals” (thank you, narrator Caroline Aherne) becomes a “breast seller” (thank you, Burnley assistant manager Ian Gilbert, aka “the grafter with laughter”), and Edwards credits it with boosting takings by 5% (shame the same could not be said of the wearer’s assets).
But bras are just a side show. To really challenge Poundland, Edwards wants to expand his empire and is looking to save £2m to £3m to fund new store openings by cutting staff levels. Cue a falling out between finance director Ian Hamilton and regional manager Craig, who points to abandoned baskets as evidence that poor customer service is losing Poundworld sales.
Ian thinks the solution is to change staff rotas so more tills are manned when stores are busy, but Craig’s not convinced. They decide to up staff levels in a few stores to see who’s right and it’s Ian. Whether such tactics will be enough to take on the likes of Asda, we’ll have to wait until next week to find out.