Poundstretcher has become one of the forgotten names of UK retailing, despite being a significant player in the evolution of the variety store into value retailing.

The company’s rapid changes of ownership and multiple formats make it all too difficult to recall precisely what happened and when to names like What Everyone Wants and Instore - sorry, ‘…instore’ - to say nothing of the ups and downs, mainly downs, of sales and profits and the comings and goings of management teams.

Confused? No need to be, because Retail Week Knowledge Bank’s recently updated profile sets the complicated record straight and also speculates on what the future might hold. Poundstretcher still has more than 300 stores, covering about 2.3 million sq ft, and is still saddled with distinctly modest densities below £150/sq ft - half the level of many competitors. With annual sales of £300m, the business has posted a profit in just one of the past nine years. The number of its employees is only half what it was in the early 2000s, yet the employment costs-to-sales ratio has not improved.

Its management’s intention is to re-establish Poundstretcher as a leading value retailer, mainly by enhancing the homewares offer and reducing its dependence on fashion and seasonal ranges, while reformatting the stores, which all now trade as Poundstretcher, bar 20 Coloroll units.

But Retail Week Knowledge Bank concludes that it will prove an uphill struggle, questioning whether an admittedly more clearly positioned Poundstretcher can be successfully reinvented. In the interim, an impressive array of apparently more sophisticated and profitable value players has become entrenched.

Can Poundstretcher catch up? That may be stretching a point.

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