Pound shops: are they always a bargain?

Emma Woollacott
andover  high street  hampshire ...
andover high street hampshire ...

There's a pound shop on virtually every high street these days, offering everything from cornflakes to garden tools. And it's hard not to think you've come out a winner after handing over just a few coins.

But the fact is that pound shops are often more expensive than traditional high street stores, with some products costing twice as much.

An investigation by the Daily Mail, for example, has revealed that Cadbury Fingers - £1 at Poundworld - are just 50p at Iceland. Meanwhile, a £1 triple-pack of paracetamol is only 75p at Boots.

So how can you be sure of getting the best deal?

Make a list
It's all very well saving £5 on essentials - but if you then spend that fiver on a tempting piece of tat, you haven't come out ahead. Without a list, it's all too easy to decide you need half a dozen beaded votive candleholders that will be gathering dust till kingdom come.

Compare prices online
Comparison sites such as mySupermarket.co.uk monitor prices at pound stores like Poundland and Poundstretcher too. Meanwhile, HotUKDeals highlights prices that look like particular bargains.

Look for brands
"It's the brands where you'll be making a good saving versus the supermarket or high street," comments Ricky Willis of the Skint Dad blog. "Non-branded items are going to be worth less money so you'll see a lower saving, if one at all."

Check the pack size
Pound shops frequently sell branded goods that appear far cheaper than their supermarket equivalents - but take care. They often have their own special-sized packets that are substantially smaller than usual. Poundland and Morrisons both sell McVitie's Chocolate Hobnobs for £1, for example - but whereas that nets you 431g of biscuits at Morrisons, the discount store gives you just 300g.

Know what's always cheap
There are certain products that nearly always represent good value for money. These include children's toys and art materials, cleaning products and Christmas decorations.

Keep the receipt
One feature of so-called bargains is that they aren't always as durable as they should be - and it's not much of a saving if your gadget falls apart on the second use.

But, says Willis, "Some people may feel a little tight taking something back if it only cost a pound and think for that much money it can't have been the best quality, but you have rights when shopping and you are well within them to return faulty goods under the Sale of Goods Act."