Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

Poundworld Retail founder Christopher Edwards is stepping down more than 40 years after he started the company in West Yorkshire in 1974.

His son, trading director Chris Edwards Jnr, is also leaving. Both will depart in mid-May although the Edwards family will retain its minority equity position.

Former Tesco UK board member and COO Gerry Gray takes over as CEO from 7 March. 

Poundworld is one of the UK’s fastest growing discount chains. It celebrated a record year in 2014-15, opened 38 new stores and recorded operating profits up nearly 130% to £14.6m. Last May it sold a majority stake for £150m to private equity firm TPG.

Its 280 store portfolio has now increased to more than 310 trading outlets under the banners of Poundworld and Bargain Buys. Growth is ongoing with a target of opening in excess of 60 new sites a year from 2016 onwards.

After last year’s results Edwards Sr said he expected the year ahead to be one of development and consolidation including investing in a new 500,000 square foot warehouse. He was confident of rapid growth over the coming three years.

“I am looking forward to working with Gerry over the next couple of months to ensure a smooth transition and handover period,” he said.

Steve Johnson, chairman of Poundworld, paid tribute to Edwards. “It is impossible to do justice to the huge contribution that Chris has made to the creation and growth of the Poundworld business.

“Having started the retailer on a Wakefield market stall in West Yorkshire in 1974 and successfully growing the business to over 310 stores today, he believes now is the right time to introduce a new executive who will lead Poundworld into its next chapter of growth.”

Johnson said it was a testament to the reputation and prospects of Poundworld Retail that it had attracted a candidate of Gray’s calibre.

Gray started with Tesco as a management trainee in 1988 and became managing director of the Tesco Express format in 2009. He was made CEO of Tesco Hungary in 2011 with responsibility for developing strategy through a period of economic crisis.

He became COO of Tesco UK in February 2013, accountable for 3,000 stores and annual sales of £40bn. Most recently he was a business mentor and advisor at X5 Retail Group.

“I am joining Poundworld at a very exciting time for the business, its employees and customers,” he said.

“Furthering Chris Edwards’ enterprise and the truly dynamic company he has created, we will continue to shift the retail landscape, selling fantastic products at attractive prices to deliver amazing value for our customers.”‎

Poundworld said it had now secured £50m of financing and progressed construction on its new 500,000 square foot warehouse to substantially improved its operational capabilities‎.