Poundland is taking on the big supermarkets. How do its offers measure up?
When Poundland and its cut-price rivals started to take over our high streets, plenty of people considered themselves too posh to darken their doors.
But a gradual change has taken over our shopping habits, and it seems that no one is too proud to resist the lure of the pound shop. Poundland has opened stores in places such as Chichester, Winchester and Stratford-upon-Avon, and an estimated one in eight Poundland shoppers is of the affluent "AB" social class.
Now the chain is taking on the supermarkets, urging you to do your weekly shop for a pound an item. It has launched a £1 grocery range featuring everything from eggs and sugar to tinned tuna and household cleaning products. But how does its offer compare with the supermarkets?
A closer look at the price strategy reveals that in many cases taking your trolley to Poundland can be a smart move. However, it is worth being aware of sales tactics such as unusual pack sizes that can lead you to think you are saving more than you really are.
Poundland has traditionally concentrated on branded goods, meaning that you can also get better value in the supermarket if you are willing to switch to own-brand "basics" products. The Poundland range is more limited, too, so you may find yourself struggling to complete a full weekly shop.
Good value items include penne and fusilli pasta two staples which have seen price rises in recent months thanks to poor wheat harvests. Where Asda will sell you a 3kg bag of penne for £2.87, Poundland sells you three 1kg bags for £2. Sugar, at 1.2kg for £1, is also cheaper than supermarket products.
However, if you are simply looking for similar products rather than brands, Poundland will fail you in some categories. In Sainsbury's, the cheapest tin of basic baked beans is yours for 28p, whereas Poundland offers you a choice of HP beans (three for £1) or 150g small cans of Heinz (three for £1).
On cleaning products, too, the Poundland choice can make sense, but only if it is brands you want. For example, Poundland sells 13 Powerball Finish dishwasher tablets for £1, far less than in Sainsbury's, where you can buy them for £4.62 for 30. However, there are cheaper dishwashing options if you are not wedded to your brand. Sainsbury's Basics dishwasher tablets are £2.40 for 40, while £7.57 of dishwasher powder from the same chain would last far longer.
Non-grocery items that are cheaper than at major stores, however, include branded Original Source shower gel, which comes in the same size packs as are sold for £2 in major supermarkets. Some health-care items can be cheaper too. However, be careful with the size of the packaging. Paracetamol, at £1 for three packets of 16, is cheaper in Boots, but the generic version of children's paracetamol syrup is better value at Poundland a 100ml bottle is £2.05 in Boots, more than double the cost.
With this in mind, customers who want to save as much as possible should shop cautiously at Poundland, rather than be seduced by the price points. For the brand-conscious there are savings to be had. The trick with Poundland shopping, however, is not to be seduced by the other "bargains" you'll find in store. If you spend all of your savings on a light-up ice scraper, Penny Smith yoga DVD and 40 plastic shot glasses, you will find that you have wiped out the advantages pretty quickly.