Poundstretcher store

Poundstretcher plans to open ‘at least 20 new stores all over the country’ between now and the end of the financial year in March

Former M&S Food head of finance Tristan Phillips has been appointed Poundstretcher’s CEO.

Phillips has been at Poundstretcher for just over a year, having moved from M&S to become the variety discounter’s finance director in autumn 2022.

His promotion to CEO follows the departure of Derek Lawlor from the role in May, after 10 months in the job.

Phillips joined M&S as head of finance in 2020, according to his LinkedIn page, which still lists the role as current. He is also a former head of commercial finance at O2 and finance director at Groupon.

Lawlor – a former Asda chief merchandising officer with over three decades of retail experience – was reported at the time of his departure from Poundstretcher to have left following a difference of opinion with owner Aziz Tayub.

Phillips said his year as Poundstretcher finance director had enabled him to form “an exceptionally positive personal relationship and working relationship” with Tayub.

“I think that, versus someone coming in and thinking they’ve got to change everything tomorrow, I’ve had a good runway into what I need to do and had agreed all of that before I stepped into the CEO role,” Phillips told Business Live.

“We know how we work together and I know the things that are important to him – the things he doesn’t want to happen and the things he does,” he added. 

Poundstretcher’s turnover fell 16% to £273m in the year to 31 March 2022, as its estate shrank by 17 stores to 354, with loss-making sites exited as part of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA). The business also shed over 1,000 retail staff – about one in five shopworkers – during the period.

Phillips said the estate had shrunk to 324 by the end of 2022 “and the number has continued to decline into this year, but now we are starting to grow again”.

He said the retailer planned to open “at least 20 new stores all over the country” between now and the end of the financial year in March.

“We’re a big believer in the high street and it’s a great opportunity for us to support their rejuvenation,” he said.

“If out-of-town opportunities present themselves we obviously look at them, but we really believe in smaller, regional towns with busy high streets that are actually starting to thrive a bit more. We can play a really active role in the community in those towns, with about six or seven jobs per store.

“Some of the stores we are opening will be ex-Wilkos. We were involved throughout the process, spoke to the administrator and evaluated the whole portfolio – and the best approach for us was about selecting the stores that work.”