Primark lost £430m of sales as stores closed during lockdown

Budget fashion retailer says it lost more sales than previously thought but demand has been strong since reopening

Ben Chapman@b_c_chapman
Friday 04 December 2020 13:24
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Long queues as non-essential shops reopen across England

Primark lost £430m of sales during national lockdown in England and restrictions in the rest of the UK, France, Belgium and Austria.

The cut-price fashion retailer had previously forecast sales would be down £375m. It has reopened stores in England, France, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland in the past week with extended opening hours. Eleven stores are to open 24 hours a day to try to make up for lost sales in the run-up to Christmas. 

Shoppers queued outside some branches ahead of the reopening but 34 sites remain closed including all stores in Northern Ireland and Austria.

Associated British Foods (ABF), which owns Primark as well as a range of brands including Twinings tea and Kingsmill, said operating costs fell by one-quarter at the stores which were closed.

Sales have been “very strong” since stores reopened, ABF chair Michael McLintock said in a trading update on Friday.

“We have extended the opening hours during this festive season in most of our stores in the Republic of Ireland and England to cater for the anticipated higher customer demand and to help ensure a safer environment by spreading shopping hours over a longer period.”

Mr McLintock said ABF had prepared as fully as possible for the end of the Brexit transition period on 1 January.  

He said: “Following the UK’s exit from the EU, our businesses have completed all practical preparations for the end of the transition period this month and contingency plans are in place should our businesses experience some disruption at that time.”

He said: “Notwithstanding the currently announced periods of restriction, we continue to expect Primark sales and profit to be higher this financial year compared to last. We will continue to expand retail selling space.”

Since the start of this financial year, ABF has opened new clothing stores in the US with sites in New Jersey and Florida.

Strong sales were also seen in the company’s first store in Rome in Italy, and a fifth site was opened in Barcelona, Spain.

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