Primark in Boston: top ten tips for US shoppers

Chain stores from this side of the Atlantic have a chequered history of trying to crack the US

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Primark launches its first US store in Boston on Thursday.

The discount clothing retailer is starting with one store in Boston, a city chosen for its large number of students and Irish people (Primark was founded in Dublin). Compare that to Uniqlo, the Japanese fashion chain, which is opening 20 stores a year in the US, and Primark's expansion plans look pretty modest.

Primark is right to tread lightly. The US already has plenty of discount clothing retailers, and chain stores from this side of the Atlantic have a chequered history of trying to crack the US. Topshop thrived, but Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Tesco all came home with their shopping bags between their legs.

Primark's success will depend on whether American shoppers 'get' it. Here's a few pointers for the uninitiated:

1. Expect chaos

You know those rumours about visual merchandisers strategically using mirrors and clothes rails to confuse customers, until they relent and buy things? Primark has its own version: total chaos. Primark’s big selling point – lots of lines of clothes for low prices – means that stores turn into giant jumble sales very quickly.

2. Accept rudeness

Some people don’t like chaos. Especially when they think they might be beaten to a bargain.

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Guests attend the Primark US Grand Opening

3. Be wary of the giant baskets

Primark, like supermarkets, provides enormous shopping baskets that shoppers invariably fill with cheap clothes. The idea is quantity, not quality.

4. Impulse buying

Discounters Aldi and Lidl have started a supermarket war in the grocery sector, cutting prices so deeply that big name grocers like Tesco and Morrisons struggle to compete. Discounters - including Primark - appeal to impulse buyers, who might have just popped in for one thing, but will find themselves irresistibly drawn to ten more items on the way to the cash point because everything is so cheap. Until you have ten of everything.

5. Get ready to queue

The British are famously excellent at queuing. But even they can get antsy in Primark, where queues can take on mammoth proportions.

6. The best items sell out fast

Another reason for Primark’s huge success is that it has become known for catwalk copycats. A military jacket in the style of Marc Jacobs cost just £12 at Primark, while a Calvin Klein-like t-shirt bra is £4. But be quick, the best items sell out fast.

7. Don't ask if there are other sizes in the stock room

Because, you guessed it, there isn’t one. Primark saves space by putting all the clothes straight on the shop floor.

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Shoppers at the new Primark in Boston

8. Changing rooms are optional

There may well be some changing rooms at Primark, somewhere in the back. But many shoppers will never see them. With clothes that cheap, many buy and try on at home.

9. There's are discounts, if you can find them

While it seems hard to believe that Primark could be any cheaper, stores invariably have a rail or two of clothes that have been reduced even further, if you can find it. Studies have shown that only the hardiest of Primark shoppers ever make it that far.

10. Keep your receipt

Invariably, something ‘fell’ into the giant shopping basket that, once home, is hideous. So keep the receipt. And get ready to face the queue again on your return.

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