We've earned the right to a crack at the American market, says Primark chief

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Primark is attempting to boldly go where many British retailers have failed before by trying to crack America.

The budget chain, which yesterday also reported a 26 per cent jump in first-half profits, is set to open its first 70,000 sq ft store in Boston by the end of next year and could have as many as half a dozen in the US by 2016.

Shares in Primark's owner, Associated British Foods, jumped 8.8 per cent – or 240p – to 2,962p, leaving it at the top of the FTSE 100.

"We are looking at the north-east from Washington to Maine," said chief executive George Weston. "That's a big market with a young population, great links to the UK and Ireland and, importantly, four fashion seasons a year."

Despite a history of UK retailers, including Tesco and Marks & Spencer, failing in the US, Mr Weston said he was confident. "We are already an international retailer operating in nine countries. We have earned the right to have a degree of confidence that this brand will travel. We are not cocky but we have done our research and there is a lot of knowledge of the area within Primark," he said.

He pointed out that Zara-owner Inditex and H&M, which are Primark's main competitors across Europe, are already doing well in the US.

Mr Weston said that, as with Primark in Germany and Spain, ranges would be "adapted" to suit the American market. He added that France, where Primark only opened its first store there just before Christmas, had proved to its most successful new country launch.

The retail chain's rise in operating profits to £298m in the first half helped to make up for the expected collapse in sugar profits for ABF from £162m to £64m,due to changes in European quotas. Headline pre-tax profits for the group rose 4 per cent to £468m. The dividend goes up 4 per cent to 9.7p a share.

Over there: Big names that failed


Killed off its Fresh & Easy stores in 2013.

Marks & Spencer

Sold fashion chain Brooks Brothers in 2001 and King's groceries four years later.

Laura Ashley

Ditched its US chain for a dollar in 1999.

WH Smith

Sold US airports shops after 9/11 attacks in 2001.


Bailed out of US in 2004.