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Exclusive: Primark prepares to reopen stores

Senior store staff at Primark have returned to stores to prepare them for reopening once government restrictions are lifted, Drapers can reveal.

Store managers and assistant managers have been spending a couple of days in stores across the retailer’s UK portfolio since the end of last week completing administrative tasks necessary for an eventual reopening. 

Primark will only reopen when government guidelines permit, and with the necessary safety measures. 

A spokesman told Drapers: “Nothing matters more to us than the health and wellbeing of our employees and customers. That is why we will only re-open our stores in the UK once we are convinced that it is safe and right to do so. We are closely following all safety advice from government and will treat this as the minimum standard across all our stores.”

Since the temporary closure of Primark’s stores in March, the senior staff have been working from home with a 20% pay reduction. 

The Associated British Foods (ABF)-owned retailer announced last month that it has written down the value of its stock by £284m to reflect realistic pricing when stores re-open. 

ABF chief executive George Weston said at the time: ”When we are allowed to reopen we must make our Primark stores safe for our staff and our customers, even if that means ensuring there are fewer people shopping at any one time and so accepting lower sales at least until the remaining risk is minimal. In time we can rebuild the profits. We can’t replace the people we lose. 

”One of the world’s great clothing retailers is entirely shut. We have paid for in full, and taken delivery of, very large amounts of completed stock which we can’t sell for now and we have established a fund that will ensure everyone in a vulnerable country who worked on a Primark garment, whether completed or not, is paid for that work. And we are supporting suppliers with commitments to buy garments that are as yet unfinished. But not until shops reopen and we can place new orders, will the economic hardship that Covid-19 has caused to all those in our supply chain begin to reduce.”

Boris Johnson is due to announce an update on lockdown restrictions this Sunday. 

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has called for the government to let retailers decide when they are ready to open. 

In a letter to the government Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: ”I read with alarm that in the first phase of lifting lockdown restrictions the government is to prioritise small shops for reopening. This approach provides the least economic benefit and poses the greatest risk to health. It is the worst of both worlds.

”Safety should be the only basis for making decisions on reopening; size of shop should not come into it. Retailers have made detailed plans, based on BRC-Usdaw guidance and the hard-won experience of retailers operating during lockdown. They will make a risk assessment: if it is safe, they will open and get people back to work; if it isn’t, they will not.”


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