For the past two years, my neighbours and friends have gathered together for a pre-Christmas meal. Now Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without presents, but nobody wants to break the bank, especially when there’s a big group to buy for. So I’ve taken on a new job: Poundshop Santa. Exploring the price-themed stores of my local high street in Peckham, south London, I create a lucky dip of goodies for the local children, aged between 25 and 45.
Peckham is particularly well served for the pound-conscious buyer. There are the big chains, like Poundland and Poundworld. There’s a local favourite, The Mighty Pound. And there’s the competitors who like to slice a little bit off, like The 99p Store, and new rivals that take the logic further: The 98p+ Shop.
Poundshops are often treated with scorn, seen as a symptom of poverty-stricken Britain. But actually they’re a neat trading idea: don’t worry when you come in here, everything is precisely a quid (or a Euro, if you’re in Ireland). They must be cheaper to run, too, by removing the need for shelf-edge pricing.
You don’t need to be skint to appreciate a poundshop. Many of the basic items are significantly cheaper than the equivalents in a supermarket - toiletries, food, tools, lightbulbs, you name it. If you like to roll a cigarette, why pay 70 pence for a pack of papers or a pound for a lighter when you can get five of each for a quid at the poundshop?
But elsewhere in these stores, you can find all sorts of wondrous nik-naks. Matching red postbox salt-and-pepper sets? A pound. Solar-powered scientific calculator? A pound. Huge roll of Christmas wrapping paper? A pound. A ‘Keep calm and jingle all the way’ mug? A pound. Lots of options to fill those stockings.