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800 million Pound-land

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: January 23, 2014

GV Poundland, Octagon Centre

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IT is the ultimate rags-to-riches story.

Now a store chain that sells every item for a pound and began life in Burton could be set to float on the stock market – valued at an astonishing £800 million.

Poundland is a company with which 80 per cent of the UK population has shopped, and today has profits of nearly £1 billion a year.

The idea came from David Dodd and Steve Smith.

Mr Smith got the trading bug by following in the footsteps of his father, who owned a market stall and then a cash and carry, when he opened his own discount business in West Bromwich at the age of 16.

He sold everything from radios to soap and was the real-life equivalent of Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter.

If any items had lost their packaging, they were put in a box and sold for 10p. The boxes always proved popular and the fixed-price idea was the inspiration behind Poundland.

The pair decided to pursue the idea and eventually, with the help of a £250,000 loan from Steve’s father Keith, decided Burton would be the place to start their empire.

Mr Smith said: “We would spend all day trying to convince landlords to let me open a shop where we sold everything for a pound.

“Eventually we found a shopping centre in Burton that was struggling to rent out units (The Octagon shopping centre).

“I convinced them to let me try to make it work at the beginning of December 1990. It was frantic trying to convince suppliers to give me stock in the run-up to Christmas.

“And I had to scrape together enough money to pay them.

“We opened that first shop on December 13 – and it sold out.”

It later emerged that the store sold close to £13,000 of stock on its first day.

Mr Dodd said: “I didn’t have a clue about running a bricks-and-mortar retail chain.

“I must have visited that Burton site 30 times before agreeing to buy it.

“I’d be there at different times of the day, on different days of the week, counting how many people walked past in a minute.”

From that moment the business grew and grew, with the pair soon expanding thir operations – the big breakthrough being when they opened a store in Meadowhall, in Sheffield.

Among the bargains on sale were computer desks that retailed for £80, and the firm also sold 30,000 golf clubs at £1 each.

Mr Smith sold his interest in Poundland in 2002, but by then a million customers a week were using his stores and 6,000 people were employed. Mr Dodd left the firm in 2006.

The pair’s dream is now set to become even grander, as Poundland could be the next big British brand to go public – it is eyeing up a stock market flotation early this year.

It is expected that the firm’s value could be in the region of £800 million.

Not a bad little sum for a firm which deals in people’s odd pound coins.

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