LONDON: Bargain-hunting is spreading to middle-class Britain as cash-strapped professionals cast aside their former snobbery and shop at stores such as Poundland, says a new study by the accountancy giant PwC.

The budget retail market, where anything from garden trowels to toilet rolls are sold for as little as £1 ($1.6; €1.1) apiece, is set to be worth more than £4 billion ($6.6bn; €4.6bn) by 2012, says the firm, as more affluent families look to beat the credit crunch.

More than 50% of families in the top AB socioeconomic bracket say they are now prepared to shop at chains such as Poundland, Wilkinson and 99p Stores, reversing former trends.

Some 20% of them say they will continue to trade down, even when the recession begins to reverse. At least six per cent of those polled, however, said they would not contemplate visiting a cut-price outlet.

While plans to open a 99p Store in the well-heeled Cotswold town of Stroud in Gloucestershire initially met with fierce protests, commercial director Hussein Lalani said that the store had proved a firm hit with locals.

"They were worried we would bring down the tone of the high street, but they have voted with their feet."

By the end of this year, 99p Store will boast more than 120 shops.

Data sourced from the Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff