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Primark set to launch new customer-facing website – though customers still won’t be able to buy online

Primark's Bullring store features cafes and restaurants

Primark is to launch a new customer-facing website next year – although the website will still stop short of enabling shoppers to buy online. Through the new website, shoppers will be able to see more of its range online and check availability by store. Primark is also investing further in its digital marketing capability in order to deliver more personalised content to customers. 

The retailer says digital has a “critical role to play” in its marketing, with its social media following now at 24.5m, up from 22m at the end of its last financial year. The new website will be supported by a “market-leading digital platform”. 

The news comes as parent company Associated British Foods says Primark sales have been record-breaking since its stores reopened from the third lockdown.

The retailer’s store-only business could not trade at all during lockdowns – and its UK business, for example, was fully open for only seven of the 16 weeks of its third quarter, to June 19. During that third quarter its wider retail business turned over £1.6bn. That’s 207% ahead of the same time last year, excluding currency fluctuations, because a year earlier stores were closed for an average of 12 weeks in the first lockdown. Overall, group sales were 47% ahead at £3.6bn, with grocery sales falling back by 3% to £871m. 

“This quarter,” says ABF, “sales in the reopened stores were ahead of expectation in all markets, a number of new sales records were set and the like-for-like performance was much improved on earlier periods during this pandemic reflecting an increase in both confidence and willingness to spend by our customers. 

“Primark’s like-for-like sales were 3% up on a two-year basis in the quarter, but volatility remains high and performance varied by region depending on the degree of restrictions related to Covid-19.” 

The company says that data for the total UK clothing market, including online sales, shows that both Primark and online sales gained market share over the seven weeks since its stores in the market reopened, compared to the same period two years ago – before the pandemic. “The relevance and appeal of our value-for-money offering has been evidenced by the number of customers that have returned to shop in person in our stores, across every one of our markets, each time we have reopened post-lockdown,” ABF says in its trading statement. “This reopening has also seen a resurgence in demand for fashion across womenswear and menswear, as customers start to step out of lockdown leisurewear.”

In the 40 weeks of its year to date, retail sales of £3.8bn were 11% down on the previous year, with group sales 2% behind last time at £9.96bn. By the end of this year the retailer expects to have 398 stores around the world, following seven new openings in the latest quarter. 

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