Poundland Hauls: why vloggers are moving from the aspirational to the achievable

Is the rising popularity of budget vlogs a symptom of austerity Britain, or an antidote to social media fakery?

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Everything about Freya Farrington is glamorous. With long blonde hair and immaculate make-up, the full-time YouTuber films her videos in her pristine silver-and-white home. By talking to the camera about beauty, fashion, and meeting Justin Bieber “a couple of times” in Barbados, Freya has gained 12,000 subscribers in less than a year. But once a month – “every month” – the 26-year-old uploads a video you might not expect. A Poundland Haul.

In the last year, 166,000 Poundland Hauls have been uploaded onto YouTube. In 2007, “haul videos” became exceptionally popular on the video-sharing site, with YouTubers showing off their latest purchases. Traditionally, hauls were high-end – vloggers filmed make-up, clothes, and expensive gadgets – but now, Poundland is the new Prada.

“At what point did all the beauty and lifestyle vloggers stop going to Gucci and Selfridges and start doing Poundland hauls??” asked one Twitter user earlier this month. A popular YouTuber with over 2.6m subscribers, Louise Pentland, also recently tweeted that she was “OB-SESSED” with the budget videos.  

Pentland’s own Poundland haul is the most-watched of the genre, with 283,593 views. Despite lasting over 12 minutes, the vlogger only spent £32.20 on products for the Christmas video (a far cry from the £792.21 worth of clothing shown in a recent Zoella haul).  

These videos find fans beyond YouTube, and there are over 13,000 members in a “Poundland Appreciation Society” Facebook group. “Please share your Poundland-related YouTube videos on the wall,” read the group’s rules, “Please do not post NON-Poundland videos to the wall.”

What explains the trend? YouTubers have traditionally been aspirational, while Poundland traditionally hasn’t. Is this a symptom of austerity Britain? A backlash against YouTube consumerism? Does Poundland have an exceptionally proactive and successful PR?

“They are definitely one of the most popular videos I film, second to Primark Hauls,” says Manchester-based Freya, who describes herself as a “bargain lover”.

“I always create content that I'd love to watch myself and Poundland hauls are one that I will always watch when YouTubers I follow upload,” she explains. “I take inspiration from the things you can make from affordable prices.”

A 2017 survey by auctioneers Pro Auction found that the average British person spends nine months of their lives bargain hunting, which typically works out at two hours a week. Rather than a symptom of societal change, Poundland Hauls could be popular because of an age-old love of bargain-hunting. Social media has removed any stigma some may have previously felt for bargain shopping, as people can find like-minded others on YouTube and Facebook.

Much is made of social media being “too” aspirational: generating unrealistic expectations, causing jealousy and depression, and showing off “highlight reels”. The rise of Poundland Hauls demonstrates a taste for the achievable over the aspirational, and a love of realistic, down-to-earth content. With over 75 per cent of children considering a career in vlogging, these hauls are also an accessible way for young people to start their own YouTube channels. 

In Freya's latest Poundland Haul, the blogger begins the video by showing off kitchen roll and toilet roll. She then showcases popcorn, a Terry's Chocolate Orange, rice cakes, three planters, two umbrellas, and 18 dishwasher tablets. 

In recent years, there has been a huge backlash over fakery in the YouTube community, with fans "exposing" YouTubers for Photoshopping, selling out, and outright lying. YouTube Poundland Hauls are an unobtrusive, simple form of video that make no pretences, perhaps explaining the genre's popularity. In the time it took to write this article, four more have been uploaded to the site. 

Amelia Tait is a freelance journalist, and was previously the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer. She tweets at @ameliargh

Free trial CSS