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Primark's growth proves digital is not for everyone

Drapers Award winner Primark has been driving growth in bricks and mortar, while resisting the lure of the online world, writes Jill Geoghegan.

Last week Primark was toasted by the crème of the retail crop, bagging the top prize of the Drapers Fashion Awards for its extraordinarily successful approach to trend-focused cheap and cheerful fashion.

In a climate where many retailers are struggling to keep the financial wolves from their doors, Primark has continued to defy current market trends. The value retailer reported a 15% rise in revenues to £3.5bn this year, with like-for-like sales rising by 3%.

Undoubtedly, this has been driven by the high street giant’s relentless policy of new store openings. In the past financial year alone the retailer opened 20 stores, creating more than 10,000 new jobs and taking its entire workforce to 43,000. And it’s not just UK shoppers that are potty for Primark’s fast fashion; fashionistas across Europe can’t get enough of the value collections on offer. When the retailer debuted in Berlin in July the company welcomed its highest ever first-day sales and a further 15 stores will be unveiled across the continent just in time for the Christmas retail rush. 

But what is it about Primark that whips shoppers into such a spending frenzy?

Company chief executive Paul Marchant told Drapers that he credits the stylised refurbishment of stores with the surge in popularity and profits. The high-tech new concept outlets are smart and chic, giving shoppers a quality retail experience without the designer price tag. The presentation and functionality of the brick and mortar stores are of vital importance for the retailer, as Primark, in contrast to its high street competition, has not ventured into the online market. What’s more, the brand has no plans to do so.

When it comes to connecting to their customer, Primark doesn’t need it. The disposable nature of its fashion gets the tills ringing but it would not be cost-effective online.

On trend, cut price collections that hit the shop floor hot off the runway are at the heart of the Primark ethos.

The savvy fashion retailer is in tune with its customer’s demands for high-fashion inspired styles at rock bottom prices, and as long as Primark continues to deliver on speed and value, consumers will continue to shop in their droves.

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