Poundworld in the UK has closed down. The closest equivalent here is Japan Home Centre, which used to be the "10 dollar shop", but quietly dropped that concept (in 2001, apparently). When Poundworld tried to do something similar in 2016, it didn't go well:
“Each week we would be rolling out new shelving bays as ‘manager’s specials’, where prices were written by hand, and customers would say: ‘I thought this was supposed to be a pound shop.’”
...and maybe that was the beginning of the end. Of course, the concept made a lot more sense 20 years ago:
[Chris] Edwards [who launched Poundworld] writes in his book of a trip to China in 1997: “I would see stuff I had bought from wholesalers in Britain for 55p and it would be for sale to us for 25p. It was exciting!”
Two obvious problems here: £1 in 1997 is equivalent to around £1.78 today, and the RMB is 33% higher than it was 21 years ago. So it should be "the £2.37 shop". Well, maybe not.
Yes, you can sell smaller packs at the same price (which they did), but that's an expensive change to make (and customers may notice this and complain, whereas small price increases are not so obvious).
To be fair, their similarly named rival is still in business, though they have also faced challenges.
At one point, Poundland almost had to stop stocking reading glasses, one of its biggest sellers. “We had to work very hard with our supplier,” says Nick Agarwal, a consultant at the chain. “They took out metal parts from the spring hinge in the arms and changed production to produce the plastic in each pair in one go.”
In Hong Kong, Living Plaza sell reading glasses (and most of their other products) for HK$12. Not quite so snappy as 10 or 1, but I suppose it works for them.
Or you can go crazy at the "Ten Dollar Store" and pay HK$89.90 (but, hey, you also get a plastic case). Oh, and that annoying jingle played in a continuous loop.
And (from that same Guardian article) this is hardly a new idea:
In 1884, a Polish-Jewish migrant called Michael Marks opened Penny Bazaar in Leeds. His slogan was: “Don’t ask the price, it’s a penny”. Marks joined Tom Spencer, a bookkeeper, and, by 1900, Marks & Spencer had 36 Penny Bazaars. Eventually, the pair began moving away from fixed pricing and began trading under their own names.
If you want to know more about the history of M&S, try here.