Primark sales jump as prices rise and city centre shopping booms

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Primark has seen a surge in sales after prices went up and shoppers flocked to city centres, owner Associated British Foods (ABF) said.

Sales at the value fashion retailer in the UK jumped by 15% in the six months to early March, compared with the same period a year ago.

Across Primark, which includes shops in countries around Europe, sales rose by nearly a fifth to £4.2 billion, beating the group’s expectations for the period.

Shops also attracted new customers as people hunted down more affordable items amid soaring living costs, leading to an increase in the volume of sales.

But average selling prices went up as the business tried to offset some of the impact of cost inflation.

ABF’s chief executive George Weston told the PA news agency that customers have already seen the “vast bulk” of price rises at Primark.

He said: “We hope that we are returning to a much more normal environment where by and large we don’t increase prices, and we are seeing costs in some areas coming down quite significantly.”

The increase in UK sales is also partly because the retailer expanded its ranges to sell more premium products such as Primark’s “The Edit” women’s clothing collection.

Mr Weston added: “And it is probably being driven to some extent by the removal of some of our competitors, notably the Arcadia brand and Debenhams.”

“But we are still the best value on everything,” he assured.

Arcadia owned a number of major fashion retailers including Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins and Debenhams, but collapsed into administration in 2020 when many of the brands were sold off to rival retailers.

Touching on cost-of-living pressures, Mr Weston said: “When people come into stores, I think they may be buying a greater proportion of their clothes with us than they might have done before.

“But on average, the basket sizes are down a little, which shouldn’t surprise us.”

ABF added that it is “cautious about the resilience of consumer spending in the face of ongoing inflation in the cost of living and higher interest rates” so had chosen to put through only “moderate” price increases for this financial year.

As a result of the “careful” pricing decisions, higher selling prices did not fully offset the impact of cost inflation over the period and the group’s margins declined.

The company, which also owns major grocery, sugar, and ingredients businesses, saw its adjusted profit before tax slip by 3% to £684 million.

Mr Weston added: “This period was marked by extreme and volatile inflation in all our businesses. We have taken considerable action to mitigate these costs through operational cost savings and, where appropriate, pricing.

“Primark has been very successful in this period in attracting new customers with its proposition of good quality merchandise combined with price leadership and well-invested stores.

“We have had a very strong contribution from new stores opened in the period, and today we are announcing plans for the development of our Primark business in southern states of the US.”

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