The owner of the discount chains which trades as Dealz and Poundland in Ireland plans to create about 13,000 net new jobs across Europe over the next three years as it aggressively opens new stores, its boss has told Reuters.
Chief executive Andy Bond said the majority of the new jobs would be in continental Europe, as it bets shoppers will flock to cheaper stores following the devastation of the pandemic and as people search for bargains amid inflation.
Owned by Pepco – currently a subsidiary of troubled South African-based international retaining group Steinhoff – the company trades as Dealz in the Republic where it has about 100 stores and as Poundland in the North, with about 35 outlets.
It also has a clothing range, Pep&Co that competes with the Penneys-Primark group.
While many European retailers have shifted operations online, shut stores and cut jobs to survive Covid-19, Pepco is heading in the other direction.
"Unlike many bricks and mortar retailers which are all about stories of 'haven't we done a good job where we're staying alive', we're very confident about our growth," Mr Bond, a former boss of British supermarket chain Asda, said.
Mr Bond has said Pepco could benefit from inflationary pressure as people become more price-sensitive.
Pepco Group, which listed on the Warsaw stock market in May and now has a €6.9bn valuation, currently employs about 35,000, trading from about 3,400 stores in 16 countries.
One of its biggest markets in Europe is in Poland and it also operates in Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, as well as Spain. It will start trading in Austria in September.
The group is targeting more than €1bn in core earnings within five to seven years. In June, it reported first-half underlying earnings of €324m.
Like many discount retailers, Pepco has not embraced online deliveries when an average basket size is €7 to €8.
Poundland is, however, conducting a small online trial in central England to better understand customer demand, and is also looking for a partner in eastern Europe for a trial.
"Personally, I've been very sceptical. However, it is such a macro trend, we've got to learn about it, because I have no intention of looking like the idiot who called the world flat when it was actually round," said Mr Bond.
Pepco shares have soared over 36% since listing.
• Additional reporting Irish Examiner