The business on...Hussein Lalani, Co-founder, 99p Stores


So what's his strategy?


See if you can work it out from the name of the shops. In recession-era Britain, discount retailing is performing very well; 99p Stores revealed yesterday that it made a £6.3m profit last year, three times as much as in 2009 and more than ever before.

What's the back story?

Mr Lalani founded the business a decade ago along with his brother Faisal. The two men have retail in their genes – their father Nadir came to Britain from Tanzania in 1972 and built up and sold two chains ofconvenience stores. The company did well from the beginning but has really come into its own over the past five years. It now has 144 stores, having picked up quite anumber of Woolworths outlets when the retailer went under in 2009.

People like the idea then?

Well, when money is tight, people don't want to pay more than is necessary for basics such as toothpaste or any of the 10,000 lines that the stores stock. Still, not everyone is impressed – there has been a certain amount of resistance to the company's expansion.

Tell us more

Let's just say the residents of some of the towns one might think of asbetter-off have been a little sniffy about 99p Stores. In places such as St Albans and the Cotswolds' town of Stroud there were even campaigns against them opening up.

Isn't that rather snobbish?

Mr Lalani thinks so, too, especially since the company's own research suggests its customer base is pretty varied. It says its 600,000 weekly customers include stockbrokers, lawyers, accountants and doctors. "Value has no class boundaries," Mr Lalani said.

So what's next?

The company's big ambition is to catch Poundland, the leader in the discount-marketing sector, whichcurrently has 100 or so more stores. It's got plans to open 31 new stores in the next seven months and in austerity Britain it is clearly on to a winning thing. Let's just hope no one comes up with the idea of 98p stores.

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