Primark sales buck consumer slowdown

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The Independent Online

Primark's flagship London store delivered its biggest one-day of sales in the value fashion giant's 39-year history last Saturday, as further details emerged of its plans to conquer Europe.

It is understood that the Primark store on Oxford Street delivered sales in excess of £600,000 on Saturday. While trade was boosted by the annual traffic-free day before Christmas, the store's sales were well ahead of the corresponding day in the capital's West End last year.

The flagship London store has been a phenomenal success for Primark since it opened to a customer scrum in April 2007 - generating average weekly sales of more than £2m - but industry sources said that trading has been less buoyant at a number of its other UK stores. Other retailers, from high street bellwether Marks and Spencer to the DSGi-owned chains Currys and PC World, have seen volatile trading recently, with sales varying widely from one week to the next, as the industry engaging in fierce discounting.

Today, the British Retail Consortium said that UK like-for-like retail sales slipped 2.6 per cent in November, and that total sales fell for a second consecutive month for the first time since records began in 1995.

In Europe, Primark, which is owned by Associated British Foods (ABF), has poached another senior executive from rival fashion retailer C&A to head up its management team in Spain. The value fashion giant has hired Jose Luis Martinez as its general manager of Iberia. Mr Martinez will support the existing management team in the region, who have grown sales in Spain to account for 8 per cent of Primark's total sales since opening four years ago.

In the summer, Primark hired Guy Young, another senior executive from C&A on the continent, as its international trading director to spearhead its expansion in Europe.

Elsewhere in Europe, Primark will unveil its first store in the Germany city of Bremen in May and its inaugural store in Portugal in 2009. The City will watch Primark's performance in Germany, where it will compete with C&A and Adler, like a hawk because it is Europe's biggest market for discount retailers.

It opened it first store in The Netherlands in the port city of Rotterdam on 1 December. ABF said that Primark's underlying sales grew 4 per cent for the year to 13 September and that, crucially, the growth was the same across both half-year periods. Primark's full-year operating profit increased by 17 per cent to £233m, although its profit margin eased off from 12.5 per cent to 12.1 per cent. Primark declined to comment.

Primark has a total of 187 stores in Ireland - where it trades under the Penneys brand - Holland, Spain and the UK.

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