Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

How '99p' stores made African businessman millions

From Erin Maclaughlin, CNN
updated 6:01 AM EST, Fri February 10, 2012
  • Nadir Lalani, founder of 99p Stores talks about growing a business in recession
  • Lalani says the key to the success of his business is making fast decisions in buying
  • Recession helps his business model as it profits from offering better value,says Lalani
  • Lalani says he is also looking for opportunities in investing in manufacturing in Africa

(CNN) -- Nadir Lalani, arrived in the United Kingdom in the recession-hit 1970s from Tanzania and started a small corner shop. Since then, he has expanded his successful budget retail business '99p Stores', throughout the country.

The stores, where everything is sold for 99 pence and are equivalent to dollar stores in the United States, have grown rapidly especially during the global downturn. Lalani now operates more than 100 stores in Britain and serves around 1.5 million customers each week.

Times are tough on the British High street but Lalani has managed to open 40 new stores in one year as a growing number of consumers go on the hunt for a bargain.

Lalani, who is of Pakistani origin, shares his experience of building a recession-proof business with CNN's Erin Maclaughlin in this edited version of their conversation below.

CNN: How successful is this business?

Nadir Lalani: I would say we are very very successful today. Our growth is very, very good compared to anybody else. We bring 2,000 people, customers to our store minimum. 2,000 customers a day is a lot. And once people do come, they stick with us. Because we sell very, very cheap quality good stuff.

CNN: You have gone from running a corner shop to a massively successful business in the middle of economic downturn. What are some of the secrets to your success?

Nadir Lalani: Key to our success is 'buying'. We make very fast decisions. Whatever people want to sell. They say we want to get rid of this stock. And we buy those stocks straight away. So no, we don't mess about it.

Key to our success is 'buying'. We make very fast decisions
Nadir Lalani, entrepreneur

CNN: What is your strategy? How do you get your prices so low?

Nadir Lalani: The prices we sell at, nobody can match us, we sell much cheaper than any of the multipurpose -- the brand we bring in, the price -- so people just come in, you will see in just a few minutes, hundreds of people, hundreds of people literally.

See also: Worst of times prove best for luxury brands

CNN: How has Britain's economic downturn been a catalyst for your success?

Nadir Lalani: With the downturn, we find it more and more...the middle class people are coming in our store and then they come in and they are surprised what they have been paying Tesco. The prices are so much cheaper, and it is the same brand. Because we sell a lot of branded products.

CNN: Do you think the economic downturn has helped your business model in some ways?

Nadir Lalani: certain extent, yes, definitely. Like, if you look at November, Britain's retail sales were down. We were seven percent up, like for like, which is very, very good in this climate. There are very few companies who would have achieved that.

What we offer to our costumer, is unbelievable value. Even a multimillionaire likes a bargain
Nadir Lalani, entrepreneur

CNN: And why is that?

Nadir Lalani: It's just the product. What we offer to our customer, is unbelievable value. Even a multimillionaire likes a bargain.

CNN: How has your experience in Africa aided the growth of your business?

Nadir Lalani: You see in Africa, when you do business, it's more trading, and the trading element helps us a lot here. We are just traders. Buy cheap, sell cheap.

See also: Agriculture must play 'critical role' in Africa's future

CNN: How do you view the African market?

Nadir Lalani: I would like to go back and invest there.

CNN: And why do you think it's a good place to invest?

Nadir Lalani: Because the market is still young. There are a lot potentials there. I am looking for a moment to invest there you know. Manufacturing, that's what they need. Because they don't want to spend their currency, foreign exchange importing. They need manufacture locally, they need industry in Africa. So they can be more dependable on themselves.

Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Africa
updated 2:15 PM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
Kinshasa, the sprawling capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has installed two talking robots to help regulate the city's hectic traffic.
updated 6:21 AM EST, Thu February 20, 2014
A South African app allows buyers to pay for goods using their phone, without having to worry about carrying cash or credit cards.
updated 10:23 AM EST, Wed February 19, 2014
A Zambian computer tablet -- known as the ZEduPad -- is trying to open up the country's information highway.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
South Africa may be the dominant force in Africa's wine economy, but other countries are making inroads in the industry.
updated 6:55 AM EST, Mon January 6, 2014
Commuters aboard an overloaded passenger train 03 February 2004, celebrate after arrival at the train station in the centre of the capital Nairobi.
A $5 billion Chinese-funded railway project in Kenya could transform transport in east Africa.
updated 7:27 PM EST, Thu December 12, 2013
African astronomers want world-class observatories to inspire young scientists and build a tech economy.
updated 5:29 AM EST, Wed November 27, 2013
A new report praises South Africa's economic transformation since apartheid. But enormous challenges remain.
updated 6:56 AM EST, Tue November 19, 2013
Landlocked Burundi is looking to compete on the international stage as one of Africa's most prestigious coffee producers and exporters.
updated 12:18 PM EST, Fri November 22, 2013
zword app zombies
From zombie spelling games to walking snails, Africa's mobile gaming industry is taking off across the continent from Uganda to South Africa.
updated 6:46 AM EST, Fri November 8, 2013
Ethiopia is turning to renewable energy technology as the East African country looks to become a powerhouse for its regional partners.
updated 9:22 AM EST, Wed November 13, 2013
Animated cartoons are helping Kenyan companies to engage with audiences and lure international investors.
updated 7:16 AM EST, Mon November 4, 2013
Downtown Johannesburg -- once a no-go zone riddled with crime -- is undergoing urban restoration.
updated 10:12 AM EDT, Wed October 16, 2013
Using helicopters and night-vision, crime syndicates are taking rhino poaching to a new level and conservation parks are struggling to keep up.
updated 5:27 AM EDT, Thu October 10, 2013
Eko Atlantic city design concept
A lack of infrastructure has hindered Africa's development, but a series of megaprojects could change that.
Each week Marketplace Africa covers the continent's macro trends and interviews a major player from the region's business community.