Tab tries: online pound shops
Students are always on the hunt for bargains – are these new pound sites good places to get them?
Cheap stuff is great. It doesn’t matter whether you’re loaded or you get the maximum student loan, finding a good deal is like discovering buried treasure or realising you’ve still got booze in the fridge. When you become a student, you make a lot of new friends, but one of the most important is probably your local pound shop / cheap off-licence.
Not having to move is also great. There’s something nice about not having to go outside and deal with other human beings, especially if you’re trying to find cheap stuff at the same time. It’s probably why they invented the internet in the first place.
Students should be rejoicing, then, at the launch of several online pound shops last month – the convenience of internet shopping with the price tag of, well, a pound shop. February saw Poundshop.com, HereForAPound.com, and PoundPanda.co.uk go live to the general public. Not only do they provide your usual pound shop fare, but they “can also offer one-off products at up to 95% off their recommended retail price”, according to Andrew Gape from HereForAPound.
But three different pound sites means there’s competition – which one is better? The Tab had a go at trying to order from all three.
You might think that’s an odd way to word that last sentence, but when we tried to order from PoundPanda.co.uk, we were left disappointed. Demand for these online pound shops had been so high that the panda was forced to close his bamboo shutters within hours of opening them. At the time of writing, the website was still down with no sign of a re-opening date.
Next up was Poundshop.com, run by the folks behind high street store Poundworld, in an unlikely coalition with the founder of Poundland, Steve Smith. Their slogan is ‘Yes! Everything is still £1’, in case you were wondering whether their prices had changed recently.
Selling everything from ‘baby’ and ‘car and bike’ to ‘medical’ and ‘smoking’ products, Poundshop has a good range of products, but it lacks the quantity of food and drink products that are the staple of most pound shops, and what will make people keep coming back on a regular basis.
There’s a minimum order of £10 plus a standard delivery charge of £3.65, although we were able to cheat the system by buying £10 worth of goods and then using a discount code to cut down the price a little. Delivery was done by DPD and, having ordered it on Friday afternoon, it arrived promptly and safely on Tuesday morning, despite cautions on the site warning of longer delivery times due to high demand.
Last but not least was HereForAPound.com, whose creators also run another online store, HereForADay.com, which specialises in ‘flash’, one-day-only sales – the pound-only site looks very similar to their older enterprise.
Offering much the same categories as Poundshop, they also suffer from the small food and drink range problem. However, they do offer some interesting ‘express shopping’ bundles, including ‘twenty monthly essentials’ and ‘top five toiletries’ (presumably, the latter comes from the Official Toiletries Chart).
Delivery is slightly less at £3.50, and there isn’t a minimum order limit. In fact, if you order more than £15 of stuff, you’re treated to free delivery, which is done by Yodel. Also ordered on Friday afternoon, the HereForAPound delivery didn’t arrive until the following Thursday – slower than Poundshop, but given that none of the products were nondurable, it didn’t really matter.
That’s the online pound shops compared to each other, but what about the concept in general? Is it really worth it and do they have a future?
“Our first month target was to generate sales of £28,000, but we surpassed this in the first week of trading,” said HereForAPound’s Andrew Gape, proving the sudden popularity of these new sites. “Our biggest single order to date is £73 and we are adding more customers every day.
“Most retail sectors have seen a large increase in online shopping, and pound shopping will be more different. It’s just a surprise none of the big pound shop brands have gone online before we got there!”
While they might be popular in the retail sector as a whole, I still have doubts about how useful such sites will be for students. I live about five minutes walk away from a Poundland, as do most students here in Lincoln, which offers more of the sort of things students will need on a regular basis, and without charging them for delivery.
Perhaps these online pound shops would be more useful in campus-based universities, which might be further away from the town centre and the more traditional pound shops, but personally, I’m not so lazy that I’ll pay an extra few quid to avoid the inconvenience of having to put one foot in front of the other.