Primark hungry for more space

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The Independent Online

Primark, the discount clothing chain owned by Associated British Foods, is still on the hunt for more UK space despite adding 40 per cent to the size of its estate over the past 12 months.

George Weston, ABF's chief executive, said Primark was looking for space in places such as Edinburgh and Milton Keynes where it was not represented. He quashed fears that consumers were tiring of cheap fashion, sparked by an abrupt slowdown in the chain's in underlying sales this autumn.

"The growth in the clothing market at the moment is all coming from value retailing. Sixty per cent of our space is outside our like-for-like calculations, so like-for-likes are not a good measure of our current performance," he said.

Last year Primark's operating profits grew 18 per cent to £166m on sales up by the same percentage to £1.2bn. It is adding a further 45 per cent to its floor space, giving it 4.5 million sq ft by September 2007.

Mr Weston was speaking as ABF unveiled a 3 per cent drop in pre-tax profits for the full year to £559m, in line with expectations. The group's British Sugar arm has been hit by new EU rules which have opened the sugar market to producers in developing countries.

Yesterday it said operating profits at its primary food division, which includes British Sugar, dropped to £115m from £166m. It is shutting two UK factories and buying up additional sugar quota in Poland to compensate for the new regime.