Monday, 3 September 2012

How would you spend £50 in a 99p store?

Do you love a bargain?

We were sent £50 worth of vouchers to spend in one of the 99p Stores.  The only condition with the vouchers was that they were to be spent in a single visit.

Now that’s a shopping challenge.

Not quite of the proportions that Dale Winton used to set (or still sets if you watch Challenge TV), but one I wanted to take on.

I’ve read much debate on whether 99p shops really represent good value, and if you can get sucked in by simply assuming everything in the store represents good value.

I’m not a stranger to bargain stores, even though I regularly shop at a supermarket that claims to be the cheapest, I reserve buying things like toilet and kitchen roll from other even cheaper shops.

So I thought I was armed with decent product price knowledge, and would be able to spot a bargain, and question when 99p may not be the lowest price available.

Still, having never actually been in one of their stores, I did some more research on the 99p Stores website, creating a list of bargain target items.

Due to the vast range of things that they stock, that list looked like the random scribblings of someone not very good at word association games.

But, as an example, top of my target list were batteries.

I’ve longed for a reliably cheap supplier of AA and AAA bad-boys.  With Max’s Wii controllers, and my wireless keyboard, we seem to go through them with some regularity.

When we near running out I try to hunt out the best prices for bulk buy replacements from all sorts of outlets.  I’ve bought them from small independent sellers on Ebay and from large retailers that have had offers on.  I even created a spreadsheet that calculated the price per battery for quick comparison (but you already knew that).

Prices for things like batteries vary enormously, as retailers price the different sized packs, have special offers, discounts for multiples as well as some packs coming with extras for ‘free’.

And that’s one of the first observations to make about the 99p Stores, their prices are fixed low.  Almost all the items are 99p (some are less, but never above) which means you know what to expect when you walk in the store.

Sometimes their prices will be almost be matched, or even bettered slightly, when large store retailers have an offer on, but with the 99p Stores you know what you are going to get, and you don’t have to wait for them to have an offer on, or be forced to pay a higher price if they don’t.

We enjoyed shopping in the store, and found it to be very neat.  I think people may have come to expect a certain level of chaos in a shop that has low prices, but that wasn’t the case in our experience.

Still, to keep my am-I-really-that-savvy paranoia in check, I used a price comparison app on my phone to check the price of items of the things I thought were cheap as we shopped.

We found a Dettol floor cleaner for almost half the price that I usually pay, dust masks that were an even better deal than that.  Items that I regularly use (no, my floor isn’t that dirty, I use the dust masks when cutting wood).

100 Typhoo tea bags for 99p represent good value, as did a 15 pack of pocket sized tissues.

There were also items we chose to treat ourselves with.  Max took advantage of the 99p pick ‘n’ mix, and I threw more than one pack of Swizzles Matlow products into our trolley-basket.

I even bought the boy a 99p snorkel set for us to try out on the final couple of days of his school holiday.

It’s already come in useful.

The 99p Stores are planning to set myself, along with some other bloggers, more challenges in the coming months, and feedback meetings are planning with their found director, Hussein Lalani.

But we may be back in the meantime, for batteries, dust masks, floor cleaner but probably not snorkels.