The Pound-Shop Economy

Many people below the age of 30-something assume that the Pound-Shop Economy is a new phenomenon and drool at it’s convenience and prices, but how new is the concept?

I’ve often marvelled at the exponential miracle growth of the ‘Pound-Shop’ economy and how on earth can they even think of making a profit on most of their items in the store when they’ve got overheads like rent, staff wages, storage, freight, advertising, and I’m sure a whole lot more besides.

At least one of these Pound-Shop dynasties has a ‘Trade-Counter’ which offers unbelievable discounts to those with a bigger wedge of money burning a hole in their pockets, so how on earth can they ‘afford’ to do this? Do they get all their stock for FREE or something?

Then I remembered a remark made to me by the chap who used to rent out old and battered diesel concrete/cement mixers back in the early 1970’s when I was working on sites like Lower Early, Great Hollands, Furz Platt and many more in the Thames Valley area. I sub-contracted for a main plastering contractor back then (A.J Moran) – great bloke, very fair, but didn’t pay a lot per Sqr Yard as it was back then. He didn’t charge a lot to the developers either, but I’ll get back to Andy, for now I’ll focus on Bevan, the Cement Mixer King.

No matter what site you were on you would almost always see this chap pull up onto site with his trailer and another beat up old mixer, though usually 100% reliable, and place it wherever needed on site. He’d pop in for a chat and a cup of tea/coffee for a few minutes before heading off, then one day I thought I’d find out the going rate to hire one of his mixers as I was getting more ‘private’ work.

He astounded me by telling me he charged just £7- a week including delivery and pickup.

“Whaaaat? – Only £7- a week? how on earth can you afford that” I said. He took another sip and calmly said “Yes, but I’ve now got over 200 of them out there that I only paid at most a tenner for at various auctions, and usually they’re on site for many weeks before I have to put them on another site, I don’t have to find storage as I’ve always got contractors ‘begging’ me to get one to them so ‘they’ do all the storage for me, and as you know, I don’t rush about at all”. He didn’t either, he was the most Laid-Back bloke you’ll ever meet (apart from Andy Moran, our boss).

Now I also knew that he built many of them by canibalising two or three wrecks into one good banger, and ‘he’ would be the one to appear on site if rarely there was a problem with one, but do the maths; If he only had 200 mixers at £7- a POP! that was £1,400- a week ( a dang good income back then in the 1970’s) for driving his old land-rover and trailer about the various sites, a few hours mechanicals a day, and evenings and weekends all to himself

His formula was simple. Charge a price that the bigger boys couldn’t match. Deliver the goods as promised and on time, and don’t be ‘greedy’ the number ONE factor. It was also the motto of ‘Super od’ (Max Quarterman) who I worked alongside on many-a-site and ‘learned’ how to make MORE ££££’s than anyone else on the job.

Now as I said earlier, Andy Moran was the main Plastering contractor in the area for many years (along with his brother Noel) He started out like the rest of us subbying around the area until Caversham Park got started and he went from subby to a ‘trial’ as a contractor (with several other small-to-medium plastering contractors) where he got the likes of me and many others to pump out as many houses as possible a week to keep the main contractors happy. He was a great Man-Manager with his calm, easy-going manner and got the best out of most of his own subbies, and as he took a slice off of each man, his coffers grew exponentially as well.

He got a good reputation there for keeping to schedule and ‘variable’ quality?

He took over almost all of the development eventually and he went from strength-to-strength getting bigger and bigger contracts throughout the Thames Valley (and further) because of his reliability and the fact that he kept his prices very competitive, for the builders – and for us the subbies.

BUT! as he used to keep reminding us, we could have ‘runs’ of houses to plaster. We never had to constantly up-sticks and move on to other jobs, and everything was delivered ‘for’ us to just crack-on and earn the money. (Which most of us did – very successfully).

By the mid-seventies I was on extremely good money ‘in my pocket’ thanks to Andy and his foremen being so reliable and keen to keep us producing the goods that in turn earned ‘them’ their money as well. Friends and even relatives insisted that it was impossible to earn the sort of money that I was earning on such a low yardage price. (So I took a couple into work with me at weekends – they never worked so hard in all their lives )

There were builders and other plastering contractors who were paying ‘more’ than Andy, but because their organisation skills weren’t up to much, you couldn’t make the good money with them (A good lesson to be learned THERE it seems) and so Andy won in every direction. And so did WE!

Now after a while, as I said, I started taking on more and more ‘private’ work. Other small builders, private renovations etc, etc; but one question kept coming up time and time again “Do you know of a ‘really reliable & trusted’ electrician, plumber, carpenter, tiler, painter & decorator?” etc, etc, who would charge competitive rates like myself.

Well back in the day (pre computer) I had a good list which I had photo-copied many times and I would always have a batch of these in the van to hand out to my customers/clients during or after the work was finished. I never charged, it was just a complimentary thing that cost me nothing except a bit of photocopy ink and some paper. It proved to be very popular, and it continued until I had to give up work several years ago now.

Since then I’ve beavered away building a Business-To-Business/Customer Referral Website called I’ve listed a few of the ‘trusted trades’ I spoke of earlier, plus a Free E-Library and Business Promotion Resources. I’ve bought all of these as PLR over the years and continue to give free access to whoever turns up to the site, whether they use the Trusted Trades or not. I think that’s firmly in keeping with the Pond-Shop Economy principles.

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