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Fears for High Street as bargain stores thrive in recession

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by Kay Mitchell

Discount stores, such as the 99p Store, are performing extremely well during the recession, which has raised fears that the High Street is being dragged downmarket.

In the last 12 months alone, the 99p Store has doubled its outlets and is to open its 99th store in Ashford in Kent this week.

Co-founder of the chain Hussein Lalani said: “We have opened in 30 old Woolworths stores and we’ll have 50 by the end of the year. The closure of Woolies has helped us expand at the rate we have.”

“Landlords don’t want to be paying rates on empty shops, so they are happy to have us,” added Mr Lalani.

However, fellow shopkeepers are not so happy to see the expansion of the 99p Stores. One toy shop owner (whose shop is next to a new 99p Store) said: “It’s not nice to have an empty shop but I wish it wasn’t a cheap one opening. I hope it doesn’t make the place more downmarket. I wouldn’t go there.”

In addition, a campaign has been launched on Facebook, which is against a proposed 99p Store in the Cotswold market town.

Furthermore, when branches were opened in Muswell Hill, north London, and Lymington, in Dorset, there was opposition.

The 99p Store was established in January 2001 with the first store opened in Holloway, London. Expansion followed quickly with a further three outlets in the same year,

Since then, the brand has been rapidly developed and undercuts its main rival, Poundland, by just one pence.

Since the onset of the economic downturn, consumers have reined in their spending and, as a result, the chain has benefited.

As a result of the expansion, the chain will create up to 3,500 new jobs over the next 18 months.

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News posted: August 21, 2009

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