>>chains that are changing the UK’s shopping culture


As some of you know, my hometown is Accrington in Lancashire. And it’s in towns such as Accrington that you can experience first hand how the discount culture we describe in our feature on p32 is now taking grip in many parts of the country.
Whenever I pop back home I am always amazed at the sheer diversity of discounters - or value retail chains as they are known in the jargon - doing a roaring trade in this former mill town. Many of the names will be familiar to readers of this magazine. There’s Aldi, Lidl, Netto, Farmfoods and Jack Fulton’s, for instance. Many of the retailers I spot in the town centre are probably not as well known, but their operations are no less impressive - chains such as Poundland or Home Bargains.
What fascinates me about all these companies is the way in which they are, to some extent, nibbling away at the overall grocery market.
Most of these chains are now represented across great swathes of the country. Yet I would argue that their impact on the retail industry in general, and the grocery sector in particular, is still not fully understood. There is no reliable data, even though it’s obvious that these companies are generating significant sales.
You can read all about Poundland’s ambitions in our feature. But if you take a look at the website of the company behind Home Bargains (www.tjmorris.co.uk), for instance, you will read about a company that has built up an impressive business with 90 stores and about £116m turnover. It specialises in the resale of clearance items, end-of-line merchandise and distressed products. All of what it sells is branded; a lot of it is grocery.
You must also remember that there are plenty of other savvy operators, such as Home Bargains, out there doing equally good business in core grocery areas.
Despite their success, these companies seem to be slipping under the radars of most people in our industry, far too many of whom think discounting in this country is still only about what Aldi, Lidl and Netto are up to.
But it’s about more than that, as our feature sets out to explain this week. Discounting, in all its many forms, is now a vibrant part of the retail scene and consumers know where the bargains are to be found. Whether we like it or not, the shopping culture in this country is changing. We really are entering the age of the discounter.
do not diss discounters