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Cheap uniforms skew Asda and Primark battle

Market share figures showing that George at Asda has leapfrogged Primark to take the number one clothing volume market share spot have been branded “meaningless” by the value sector.

Sources told Drapers the figures, which showed George had 10.1% market share, Primark 9.9% and Marks & Spencer 9.8% over the 12 weeks to August 17, had been dramatically skewed by massive sales of loss-leader school uniforms over the summer break.

This summer, George at Asda launched a £4.75 school uniform, though to achieve the best price shoppers had to buy it in multi-pack form for a total of £11. Primark sells a limited selection of white shirts and polos and does not market itself as a back-to-school operator.

One source in the value fashion sector said: “Back-to-school is heavily influencing sales at that time of year. Primark won’t sell items as loss-leaders to drive footfall. Profit and sales are what’s important.”

The source added that market share data for the 24-week period showed that Primark was still “firmly in the number one spot”.

George at Asda, which last year set itself a target to take the lead volume clothing slot by 2011, said the share rise had been driven by both womenswear and back-to-school. 

George managing director Anthony Thompson said the retailer had “put one flag into the hill” but that it was now onto the next – to become Britain’s best value-for-money clothing retailer – and conceded that Primark or M&S was likely to retake the top spot by Christmas. He said: “Our customers don’t care about volume. They care that we are driving value in quality, style and price.”

This week, Tesco said its clothing sales had grown 6.6% over the 26 weeks to August 29, driven by a strong back-to-school performance. The grocer undercut George with uniforms for £3.75. It sold more than 630,000 three-pack pique polo shirts – a total of 1.89 million polo shirts.

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