Now even the well-off have got an eye for a bargain.
Fifteen per cent of people in the ABC1 social bracket said they were shopping more at discount stores - such as Peacocks, Matalan and Primark - than a year ago, according to retail consultants Verdict.
And 23 per cent of professionals said they were now more likely to consider buying clothes at supermarkets than they were this time last year. Verdict's Richard Hyman said: "Previously, discounting has relied on recession, but it is now very different.
"Discounting is going through the roof. It is no longer seen as stigmatised to shop in a discount store."
Sales in the cut-price sector leapt 16.6 per cent during 1999 and are set to grow another 12.5 per cent this year.
This compares with the clothing market as a whole which grew by just 0.8 per cent. And Verdict predicts discount retailers will grow their share of the clothing market from 8.4 per cent last year to 13.9 per cent by 2004.
Part of this growth will be fuelled by major space expansion of 110 per cent across six retailers: Matalan, TJ Hughes, Ethel Austin, Peacocks, TK Maxx and New Look.
And the good news for discounters is filtering through into profits. TJ Hughes last week reported a 27 per cent leap in full-year profits. And the cut-price chains are also expected to be unaffected by the fierce competition on the high street, as they undercut middle-ground retailers by such a margin.
Prices for menswear among the discount chains are said to be on average almost 60 per cent cheaper than mainstream clothing shops such as Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Bhs, with women's wear around 50 per cent cheaper.