Customer Behaviour

Budget clothing retailer Primark – which doesn’t operate online –  says it expects sales and profits in its current financial year to rise, despite the disruption from recent lockdowns. It said autumn store closures meant it missed out on £430m of sales, higher than a previous estimate of £375m.

However, it said sales since reopening, including in England this week, had “once again been very strong”. Primark does not sell online, and on reopening on Wednesday, pent-up demand saw queues form at several stores.

The chain’s owner, Associated British Foods (ABF), said it expected this financial year – which runs from September – to produce higher sales and profits at Primark than in the previous 12 months, which were affected by a longer lockdown period.

It also said it would continue to expand its retail selling space. Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter said Primark’s loyal customers and the woes afflicting rivals such as Topshop owner Arcadia, which went into administration this week, would continue to support its growth.

“[Its] highly loyal customer base… waited until stores re-opened to satisfy their pent up shopping desires,” she said. “In the UK, it is likely to have easy pickings in prime locations in the future, given the demise of its rivals.”

ABF said last month that so far Covid-19 had cost Primark £2bn in lost sales and £650m in profit. This new financial year has seen a month-long shut down in England and a host of other curbs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Closures in the start of its financial year saw Covid restrictions, designed to stop a second wave of the coronavirus, temporarily close stores in a number of other major markets.

These include the Republic of Ireland, France and Belgium, which all also reopened in the last week. Primark still has 34 stores – fewer than 10% of its 389 outlets worldwide – closed across its global markets, including all outlets in Northern Ireland and Austria.

Recently it opened new stores in the US, in Italy and its 50th store in Spain. ABF’s other businesses include groceries, sugar and other agricultures. It said these were doing better than previously expected and would also perform better this year than last.

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