Dominant Primark to blaze a trail into Europe

Fashion chain reveals plans to open stores in France on back of soaring first-half sales

The discount fashion chain Primark has shrugged off the gloom enveloping fashion retailers by delivering scorching profits and sales in its first half.

Primark also revealed it plans to launch its first stores in France this year, with the first likely to open in Paris, in the latest leg of plans to dominate Europe. The chain's strong performance helped its owner Associated British Foods, which also produces sugar and owns the Twinings tea and Kingsmill bread brands, raise profits by a quarter over the six months to 2 March.

Operating profit at Primark rose 55 per cent to £238m over the period, driven by strong revenue growth and fewer price mark-downs. Boosted by 15 new stores across Europe, sales grew by 24 per cent to just under £2bn.

George Weston, the ABF chief executive, said: "The autumn and winter ranges were excellent and well received by customers."

Primark, which also has stores in Spain, Germany, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands, grew like-for-like sales by 7 per cent over the half-year.

While Mr Weston said the wintry weather had led to "weaker" trading in the UK since early March, underlying sales had remained in positive territory. This compares to a 3.8 per cent fall in fashion and homewares sales at Marks & Spencer in its fourth quarter, while Debenhams blamed two weeks of snow in January for a first-half profit warning.

Mr Weston said that, while it will initially eschew "high-profile" locations in Paris, it plans to open its first shop in France in a shopping centre on the outskirts of the capital towards the end of this year. He said Primark was also examining opening in Marseille and Lille. "We will open a few stores and see how it goes," he said.

In London, Mr Weston admitted that Primark's huge store opposite Tottenham Court Road station had had "some impact" on its flagship at the other end of Oxford Street but "less than anticipated". This was partly because its refurbishment of the shop by Marble Arch station last summer around the Olympics had given it a "second wind".

Dan Coen, a director at advisory firm Zolfo Cooper, said: "Primark has become far more fashion-orientated with fast-turning stock to reflect the latest fashion trends. The retailer has therefore been able to provide low-cost fast fashion at a time when most consumers are keeping a watchful eye on their spending."

Conglomerate ABF grew its pre-tax profit by 25 per cent to £452m over the half, on group revenues higher by 10 per cent to £6.33bn.

Citing strong performances in the UK and US, Twinings tea was the star performer for its grocery business, which grew profit by 29 per cent to £97m. Mr Weston said: "Twinings sales in the UK were well ahead of last year with continued success for the 'gets you back to you' television advertising campaign and the launch of new tea infusions."

Revenues jumped by 10 per cent to £1.32bn at its sugar production operation, but its bottom line shrank by 5 per cent to £163m, following a "deterioration" in trading in China.

Shares in ABF rose 8 per cent, or 149p, to 1,999p.

Suggested Topics
News
people And here is why...
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
Life and Style
health
News
i100
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Law Costs

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?