Primark to reopen all stores in England with social distancing in place

Budget fashion chain Primark will open all of its 153 stores in England on June 15, in line with the government’s timetable for non-essential retail to reopen and encourage shoppers back to the high street.

Associated British Foods, Primark’s UK-listed owner, said on Monday that it would run its stores in England, including a new site in Manchester, following the hygiene measures in place in its shops in the Netherlands and Germany, which reopened in May.

“Social distancing protocols, hand sanitiser stations, Perspex screens at tills and additional cleaning of high-frequency touch points in the store are among the measures we are implementing,” the company said in a statement. It added that personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, would be available to all employees.

The group said it would not be offering any special discounts to help lure customers back and shift the near £2bn of stock that has piled up since the start of lockdown, double its typical holding.

All of Primark’s 375 shops across Europe were closed in mid-March, resulting in revenue falling to zero for the fashion group, which does not sell products online.

For each month that all its stores were closed, Primark said it lost sales of roughly £650m.

The reopenings will relieve some pressure on the fashion chain known for its crowded stores and high sales densities but ABF said social distancing measures would make it impossible for busier shops to achieve their usual sales figures.

“The extent of that effect will depend on the social distancing rules adopted in each country,” the group said, adding that it had found in the more than 100 stores reopened across Europe that certain areas, such as checkouts, created bottlenecks.

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It added that the stores it thought would be hit by the social distancing rules represented between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of Primark’s sales before the pandemic.

While most items would be “sold in the normal course of business, albeit at a later date”, the group said it had earmarked certain items designed for this year’s spring/summer season to be held for next year’s range instead.

The 112 shops already open in Europe represent 34 per cent of the retailer’s selling space. By June 15, the group said it hoped to be selling from 79 per cent of its total floorspace.

Stores in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, which have differed from England’s approach to easing the lockdown, are expected to open in late June depending on “further guidance”.



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