Primark: UK city centres ‘not dead’ despite Covid crisis | Business

Join Hafta-Ichi to find out the article “Primark: UK city centres ‘not dead’ despite Covid crisis | Business”

City centres are “not remotely dead” according to Primark, even though sales at its four largest stores in central London, Birmingham and Manchester have slumped to half last year’s level since they reopened.

The budget clothing chain said customers had flocked back to its shops in retail parks since the high street lockdown ended in July, with trading better than expected, and that it had taken market share from rival retailers. However, the shift to working from home and lack of tourists has affected trading at its four largest UK stores.

John Bason, the finance director of Primark’s owner Associated British Foods, said he believed shoppers would return to city centres, although not in the same numbers as before Covid-19, and when trading improves Primark sales volumes will benefit.

“I think society wants a number of things to become more normal and we are all working on that,” Bason said. “The city is in transition, it’s not remotely dead.”

Primark said customer spending on clothes, footwear and accessories had steadily recovered since hitting a low point in April during the Covid-19 lockdown when all its stores were closed. It reopened all 153 stores in England in mid-June, while its 112 stores in Germany, Spain and the Netherlands reopened earlier.

In the UK, like-for-like sales since reopening are down 12% from last year, but if Primark’s four large city centre stores are excluded – its two flagship Oxford Street stores, Birmingham and Manchester – the decline is only 5%.

Sales in Europe are down 17% on a like-for-like basis, reflecting increased public health restrictions, particularly in Spain and Portugal, while sales in the US are 9% lower than last year.

Shoppers are expected to spend £2bn between the reopening of stores and the end of Primark’s financial year in mid-September as they snap up nightwear and leisurewear in particular, after a rise in homeworking. Sales of lipstick, which often does well in hard times as a cheap treat, are significantly down due to people wearing face masks.

The retailer said when stores reopened customers crammed much more into their baskets than last year, reflecting pent-up demand .

Primark said it had been outperforming its rivals and in the past four weeks achieved its highest ever value and volume market shares for this time of year. The chain now accounts for 6.7% of the UK market by value, bringing it closer to Marks & Spencer, the UK’s second biggest clothing retailer behind Next, according to Kantar sources.

Pippa Stephens, a retail analyst at GlobalData, said Primark had exhibited impressive resilience during the pandemic.

But she said the group should invest more in its out-of-town sites as city centres would continue to be troubled: “Though in the UK, the government is now encouraging the public to return to work and make non-essential travel journeys again, consumers are still likely to refrain from visiting these busy areas for some time, leading to a long-term decline in footfall.”

Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

Primark was able to sell more summer and spring clothes than expected, so will hold over less unsold stock until next year and markdowns have been low, compared with heavy discounting at other retailers such as M&S. As a result, an exceptional charge relating to unsold stock is £150m rather than £284m previously flagged.

Full-year adjusted operating profit, excluding exceptional charges, is now expected to be “at least” at the top end of the previously stated range of £300m to £350m , compared with £913m last year.

As many rivals close stores, the group plans to open 700,000sq metres of retail space in the year from mid September, slightly more than in the previous 12 months as some projects, including a large store in the American Dream mall in New Jersey in the US, were delayed by the Covid-19 crisis. However five stores, most of which are expected to be in Germany, will be trimmed in size.

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Primark: UK city centres ‘not dead’ despite Covid crisis | Business

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *