THE STORY OF POUNDLAND
Before I was born, my mum used to work for Every Ready batteries in Wolverhampton, whilst my dad was an apprentice draughtsman at Wellman, Smith & Owen in Walsall.
When my mum became pregnant with me, they both moved in with my dads parents. With a growing family to support and the Smith Entrepreneurial Streak, my dad knew he must go out and earn enough money to support us.
After seeing an advert in the local news paper, he bought a gross of pens (144 pens) and sold them to his work mates around the factory. The pens sold fast and with the profits he was able to buy 2 gross of pens, after work my mom and dad used to go door to door around the neighbourhood selling these pens.
Dad really enjoyed buying and selling products so he eventually applied for a stall on Bilston Market – this is where my dad soon realised he could make more money on one Saturday as a market trader than he could working all week as a draughtsman. My dad gave up his job to work on the markets full time, my mum soon followed, and in 1962 I was born.
My parents couldn’t afford the luxury of babysitters or child minders, and on the days my grand parents was working, I had to go with mom and dad to Bilston Market – while mom and dad was working hard I used to play under the market stall in the rubbish.
It’s fair to say we were a poor family. My mum and dad worked hard but money was always tight; I remember lots of times when we would have to share a portion of fish & chips between the three of us or painting the pattern back into the carpets as they was thread bare.
My grandad used to say if you don’t work you don’t eat. So, as I grew up I paid attention and learned a lot from my parents, about business, people and the culture of consumerism. And it was whilst working on this market stall the idea for Poundland came from. Any items that had come out of their original package were thrown into a cardboard box and sold for 10p. This cardboard box took more money then the rest of the stall.
Eventually my dad started selling to the other market stall holders and soon opened up his own cash & carry called Hootys after his nick name. The business grow to around 11 million pounds turnover and supplied people from all over England and Ireland.
I met my wife, Tracy, whilst studying Business at Wednesbury College, at the time my dad was giving lots of credit so i said to my father, we might as well open a shop our self. I was in West Bromwich one day and spotted a shop to rent, I made a call to the estate agents and did the deal over the phone so they wouldn’t find out I was only eighteen. This shop was called Steves Discount Market and became dads biggest customer.
Dad always used to tell me one day Hootys will be all yours but on another day surprised me by saying he had just sold the business, and he wanted the family to move to Mallorca. I was gutted.
My family moved to Mallorca but Tracy and i had to stay in England for 6 months while Hootys was sold. The days soon passed, and Tracy and I bought a trailer and packed up all our belongings. We bought a one-way ticket to Mallorca and were about to leave the UK for good, but on the night we were scheduled to leave, Tracy started crying and said she didn’t want to leave here parents. It was a very difficult decision not to go.
We did go to Mallorca but just for a holiday and on arrival told my parents the news, that we was going back to England to live. My dad said what are you going to do when you go back to England and I replied, I want to open more retail shops, thats when my dad reminded me of the 10p box we had on Bilston Market.The pound coin had just been redesigned and he said “why don’t you sell things for a pound”. I thought it was a great idea. We thought of lots of names but the name we liked the best was Poundland.
We went back to England with a loan from my dad, found a little office in Sedgley, we bought a second hand desk and fax machine and went to find the first shop.
When I told people what I wanted to do, open shops on the high street selling things for one pound, they said, how will you find products to sell for a pound, what about inflation, it will never work.
We found our first shop in the Octagon shopping centre in Burton Upon Trent and opened it on the 13th of December 1990, we had a range of 624 products, On the first day we took over £13,000, Poundland was born.
We opened many shops through out England, employed over 5500 people and had over a million customers a week, the dream was to turnover a billion pounds. We used to find products all over the world to retail for one pound.
We sold Poundland in 2002 not long after we opened the retail support centre on the black country route in Walsall.
Today the market place is around 5 billion , 85% of the UK’s population have been in or shopped in a Poundshop.
The reason why we did so well is because we had fantastic people to work with and found ways of making it fun.