Primark sales soar above pre-Covid levels as restrictions ease

Primark sales have soared to above pre-pandemic levels as shoppers return to high streets after the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Die fast-fashion chain recorded revenues “ahead of expectations” after sales of £1.6bn for its third quarter, up by more than 200%, or £1bn, from the same period last year, which reflected “an increase in both confidence and willingness to spend by our customers”.

Primark’s owner, Associated British Foods, said the retailer set a number of sales records and that overall sales were 3% ahead of the same period two years ago, before the coronavirus pandemic, driven by a boom in pent-up demand among its customers in the early weeks after reopening. ABF’s shares rose almost 5%, making it the top riser on the FTSE 100 on Thursday morning.

Primark has fared better in the last quarter than after previous reopenings earlier in the pandemic – driven by higher customer footfall, an increase in basket sizes and a lower level of price markdowns, according to the company.

More than half of Primark’s stores broke their sales records this year, with many offering extended opening hours, which allowed the cut-price retailer to return £72m in furlough payments to the UK government.

Primark, which does not trade online, said financial help from job retention schemes offered by governments in the UK and Europe helped to save all of its 65,000 jobs globally despite the retailer taking a £3bn hit to sales and losing £1bn of profits in 2020.

Its owner expects Primark’s earnings for the year to be broadly in line with the 2019-20 year, after previously warning investors that it could fall “somewhat lower” than the pre-pandemic year.

Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the success of the high street fashion chain in the wake of the pandemic would be “even more unlikely to reverse its decision not to launch a digital sales platform”.

Sy het gese: “Primark may look increasing like an anachronism, a bricks-and-mortar island fighting off an encroaching online tide, but it has shown that with a strong social media presence it can still entice queues of shoppers through its doors.

“Although the company notes the outlook is still uncertain, it’s been confident enough to continue with its store-opening programme, with seven new shops launching around the world in the third quarter.”

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