Primark finally tests online sales but warns of price hikes

One of the last strongholds of in-store retail, Primark, is to trial a click-and-collect service in the UK as part of its first significant push into online shopping.

Still, the fast fashion giant’s move comes with plenty of caveats.

The retailer said it would launch the trial in 25 stores across North West England by the end of the year, but added the pilot would only include children’s clothing and accessories.

Primark owner ABF said in a business update on Monday: ‘We have chosen a very wide range of children’s products for this trial, which we believe has the potential to meet unmet demand. satisfied, driving footfall from existing and new customers to deliver additional in-store sales.

Customers will be able to order around 2,000 items online, representing around 40% of the range, including nursery furniture, clothing and licensed products. The move reflects the company’s aim to attract more families to its stores and George Weston, chief executive of ABF, said the trial was aimed at “giving more customers more reasons to come to our stores “.

He said the company would test the idea over several months and look to expand beyond the test area or add other product categories if it increased sales.

Weston said shoppers will be able to try on items they ordered online at designated collection areas and pick up additional items from the store, while click-and-collect and in-store returns will be offered free of charge.

Primark’s new website boosts traffic

ABF said its new website, which launched in April, has seen online traffic increase by around 60%, and highlighted that customers who live closer to smaller Primark stores will have access to a range of much larger items.

“Our medium-sized stores can only stock a limited range and for these customers the number of options available to them will more than double, increasing even more for customers in our smaller stores,” ABF said. “This trial will allow us to deliver more fashion, licensing and lifestyle products to more customers, more often.”

Primark has steadfastly resisted online sales to date, quickly ending a very limited product trial with fast fashion retailer Asos a few years ago, and so far only using its website. to give customers an overview of clothing on sale, and more recently to provide inventory information for customers.

“What you will never see is the entire Primark range available for click-and-collect, nor any part available for home delivery. We use online click-and-collect very selectively “Weston said. “When they walk into their local Primark store if they’ve purchased online, we hope they’ll also purchase something else while they’re in store.”

In ABF’s latest business statement, the company said Primark sales increased 81% in the 12 weeks to May 28 compared to the same period in 2021, to nearly 2.1 billion. of dollars. Sales for the quarter also increased by 4% compared to the same period in 2019 [comparable as this was the period before Covid lockdowns].

Weston said Primark was benefiting from a rebound in socializing and holidays, with a 50% increase in sales of travel luggage compared to 2019 and an increase in sales of other staples such as beach towels and bathing suits.

Robust Primark results

The company added that although still below pre-pandemic levels, downtown stores were performing much better, saying: “The return of tourism and more office work combined with improved weather in all our markets was reflected in a strong customer response to our fashion ranges.

Weston said younger shoppers didn’t seem to be feeling the pinch yet, although ABF’s chief financial officer John Bason admitted the cost of living crisis was affecting people, but added that Primark was “as good placed as possible” in the tougher market.

“I would be amazed if we don’t attract more people to Primark than we would have before,” he said.

Nonetheless, Primark warned of price rises in the coming weeks, and Bason said they were likely to rebound in February next year amid rising fabric costs, energy, transport and labour.

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David A. Albanese