Following another bumper set of results, Primark continues to consider launching click and collect to further bolster sales, George Weston, chief executive of the retailer’s owner, Associated British Foods, has told Drapers.
Weston confirmed recent speculation that Primark is considering the introduction of click and collect in stores.
“We’ve been looking at click and collect for a number of years now, and we continue to do so,” he said. ”We also looked at home delivery with the Asos trial a few years ago – which we ran and decided wasn’t for us.”
However, in the short term, click and collect is not one of the high street retailer’s top priorities.
Weston added: “Nothing really has changed. We’ve got other priorities around European expansion, store openings and range development.”
In its half-year results, Primark’s adjusted operating profit grew by 25% year on year to £425m for the 24 weeks to 2 March. In the UK, sales were 2.3% ahead of last year and like-for-like sales grew by 0.6%.
This was driven by a focus on reduced markdowns, stock management and better buying, Weston explained.
“That lower markdown is the consequence of womenswear being strong throughout the period,” said Weston. “We keep a very tight eye on stock purchases and the rate of sale of the stock as it comes into our market. In terms of better buying, we are still migrating purchases from China into countries such as Bangladesh, which enjoy lower or zero tariffs.”
Earlier this month, Primark opened its largest branch in the world, on Birmingham High Street. Combining restaurants, beauty bars and personalisation areas, the five-floor, 160,000 sq ft store has been an early hit with locals.
“In its first week it outsold any other shop in Primark’s group, including Oxford Street,” said Weston. ”We opened six stores in that period and all have done well. Bordeaux, in particular, was very strong, Milton Keynes was good and our second store in Brussels has opened well.”
Primark expects to add 950,000 sq ft of new selling space in this financial year, including new stores in Utrecht in the Netherlands, Bonn in Germany and its first store in Slovenia, in Ljubljana. It has also signed leases for its first stores in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Certain elements of the new Birmingham store may be introduced across Primark’s portfolio.
Weston said: ”Everything we open there is both for the Birmingham market but also by way of a trial. The parts that perform best – yes, of course, we will take them to other stores. We’ve got our eye on certain sites and on certain concessions.”
One feature in the Birmingham store is clothing recycling banks, which encourage shoppers to donate clothes from any brand. Weston hinted that Primark will be expanding its sustainability credentials in the near future.
“We have a lot more to say in the month to come, so watch this space. Sustainability is really important to all our employees, who tend to be young,” he added. “I don’t think there is a group more convinced for the need of sustainability than our buying team in Dublin.”
Primark’s recent sustainable cotton jeans are in the top five bestsellers of the whole business and Weston points out that “there is no premium in Primark for sustainability” – they cost the same as previously non-sustainable ranges.
As exclusively revealed by Drapers, during the second half of the year Primark’s buying, merchandising, design, sourcing and quality functions, currently located in Reading and Dublin, will be consolidated in Dublin. This will remove confusion between teams, Weston assured, and simplify the buying teams’ process.
“The main reason for the consolidation of the buying office into Dublin is to remove some of the confusion and double working that’s been going on for a number of years. As we grow it’s becoming more and more of an issue for us.”