Matalan, the rapidly growing discount retailer, is to create 2,000 jobs this year as part of an expansion programme that will see the opening of 18 new superstores.
The group currently has 100 stores, and plans are in place to reach a total of 200 stores by 2005.
Angus Monro, the chief executive, said: "Value retailing is set to be the biggest business of its type in the UK, and our expansion programme will ensure that Matalan remains the leading player in this sector."
Matalan, which trades from large, out-of-town stores located in unfashionable locations, has taken the retail sector by storm since floating on the stock market less than two years ago.
The shares have risen more than 10-fold since the flotation, giving Matalan a stock market capitalisation of £2.2bn. This makes the group larger than sector counterparts Debenhams, Arcadia and New Look put together. Yesterday the shares rose by 12.5p to close at 530p.
Matalan's new stores will be larger, with an average size of 30,000 square feet. They will offer clothing and homeware collections, as well as expanded childrenswear departments.
However, yesterday Matthew McEachran, an analyst at Investec Henderson Crosthwaite, cautioned against over-expansion.
"The only danger is that Matalan make some of their stores so big that they go into category areas where they are not skilled. They are almost trying to become a hypermarket," said Mr McEachran.