UK discount retailer Poundland hopes to achieve GBP500m (US$825.9m) in annual sales this year and continue to open stores as it lures more of the country’s cash-conscious shoppers, its chief executive has said.

Poundland, which has 213 stores selling products for GBP1 throughout the UK, has enjoyed rising sales during the downturn, chief executive Jim McCarthy said today (11 June).

Speaking at the British Retail Consortium’s annual retail conference in London, McCarthy (pictured) brushed off the suggestion that the success of discounters like Poundland is a cyclical phenomenon.

Poundland, he said, hopes to have 250 outlets open generating GBP500m in turnover by the end of March next year and McCarthy added that the unique characteristics of this recession means the company’s popularity will endure when the UK economy recovers.

“I think there has been a real step-change in consumer behaviour driven by a lack of confidence. Houses have reduced in value, there is uncertainty about jobs, which is forcing people to think about how they spend their money.,” McCarthy said.

“This recession is a bit different to the last one if you go back to the late 1980s. The number of value retailers was far less. The consumer now is much more informed about value. Some of those habits and behaviours that have been acquired during this recession very necessarily will remain sticky. So, I can;t wait for the recovery”

Poundland, founded in 1990, is a general merchandise retailer but food is the single biggest category in stores, equating for around a quarter of the company’s sales.

McCarthy said the retailer was starting to open stores in more affluent areas of the UK, pointing to the town of Stratford-upon-Avon. “There is evidence here of savvy-shopping in people with high disposable incomes,” he said.

The Poundland boss also looked to the retailer’s medium-term target for store openings. “The market research that we’ve done suggests that there are 650 sites in the UK that we can go. So, we are only one third of the way down the track at 19-years-old,” he said.