Last week I watched a brilliant programme on BBC One - Pound Shop Wars (find it on iPlayer here). I've been a fan of pound shops for many years so it was fascinating to get a sneak peek behind the scenes and see how things work.
While watching, I tweeted my love for pound shops and received a wave of replies asking how I ever found anything decent in pound shops. After reading these tweets and speaking to some of my friends, it seems many people are totally unaware of just how good the stock in pound shops can be. So I thought I'd put together a quick post on my favourite pound shop bargains and how (and where) to find them.
The key to successful pound shop purchasing is focus. Yes, the shops are messy. And busy. And cluttered. There's no visual merchandising (unless you count a Spam tin pyramid, which I don't) and cardboard boxes are often used over shelving. But the goods sold in pound shops aren't fake, or damaged, or ready to give you a bout of food poisoning. So don't be a snob - just focus on the bargains.
There are three main pound shop chains - Poundland, a Midlands company which was taken over by a US mega brand and has the most stores across the UK, Pound World, which is Yorkshire-based but growing fast, and 99p Stores, which I have a hard time taking seriously because their logo is written in Comic Sans. Here are some quick tips:
- Head for the bigger stores - if you can. City centre shops have a wider range of products and more stock, so there's a better chance of bagging a bargain. But don't discount the smaller stores - fewer shoppers can mean more left over.
- Avoid Saturdays - it's always more difficult to shop when the place is packed. I love lunchtime visits and Sunday mornings for optimum space and tidier displays.
- Hit up all three - the three main chains do often carry the same stock but it's definitely worth checking them all if you're searching for something particular, or if your first visit was less than impressive.
- Look out for brands - I am constantly amazed by the array of top branded products sold in pound shops. From Revlon to Stilla and Coca Cola to Cadbury's, there are plenty of genuine, quality names to be found.
- ... And look out for non-brands, too. Particularly in the essential beauty category, where I've picked up non-branded Bio Oil, Petroleum Jelly and E45 cream.
- Go back often - I try to pop in to my favourite Poundland (at Crown Point, Leeds) and Pound World (off Kirkstall Road, Leeds) every couple of weeks to see what's new. There's a high turnover of stock and things come in and sell out all the time, so it's worth becoming a regular!
- Don't buy for the sake of it. I really struggle with this one, but there's no point spending £1 on TV remote control caddy if you won't use it... even if it is Sony and originally cost £30. Don't clutter your house with useless pound shop purchases!
Walking into a pound shop can be completely overwhelming, but there are certain areas that hold more bargains than others. Here are my favourite finds...
- Beauty. Stila makeup pan, Batise mini dry shampoo, cute nail art kits, Brylcreem (I used to buy 10 pots a visit for Rob), hen do party bag fillers.
- Household. Flash surface wipes, Febreeze, Glade plug-ins, Mr Muscle drain unblocker (this stuff costs nearly £5 in the supermarket!), branded pet food, pretty baking accessories.
- Party. Stick-on moustaches, feather boas, gift bags, wrapping paper, bunting, plastic cups, sky lanterns, party poppers (I could go on and on with this category).
- Office. Padded envelopes, mail bags, Sellotape, Blu Tac, stationary kits, box files, sticky labels.
- DIY. Lightbulbs, screws, batteries, gardening gear (if you're that way inclined), tools, things for the car (bought with the best intentions but never used, if you're like me).