Primark issues winter warning to anyone who shops in its stores – Manchester Evening News

High street giant Primark has issued a warning to anybody who shops in its stores.

Owner Associated British Foods (ABF) said Primark was ‘experiencing some delays to the handover of some autumn/winter inventory caused by port and container freight disruptions’.

The clothing chain today said its like-for-like sales were down by 24% compared with last year over a four-week period from mid-June, though profits have partly recovered since self-isolation rules were eased.

READ MORE: Primark boss issues message about clothing prices in UK stores

However ABF finance director John Bason told Reuters news agency the problem was ‘about delays rather than cancellations’, adding: “All stores got this early autumn stock, we’re fully stocked and ready for the season, there will be no shortages.”

Primark reported one of its busiest periods in history after stores returned from lockdown last year.

Primark, Barton Square
Primark, Barton Square
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

The chain said customers ‘came back to our stores with enthusiasm and sales reflected some pent-up demand with very high basket sizes’.

Sales for the third quarter to June 19 were ahead by 3% year-on-year, but for the fourth quarter to September 18 they are expected to be down by 17%, with an annual revenue forecast of £3.4 billion, reports the Mirror.

“In the UK our sales were affected by the rapid and significant increase in late June and early July in the number of people required to self-isolate following contact tracing alerts – the ‘pingdemic’,” ABF said.

The group also pointed to high street footfall being ‘impacted by the caution displayed by many consumers at that time’, with sales down by 24% in the first four weeks of the first quarter.

ABF said it expected underlying profits for the year to September 18 – stripping out the impact of its previously announced decision to repay furlough cash – to be ahead of the previous year as Primark’s profit margin remained ‘strong’.

That was partly helped by the fact that it has reduced the number of Primark store staff ‘through natural attrition’.

Outside the UK, Primark said that in France the launch of a Covid health pass in August led to a drop in shopper numbers, while travel restrictions affected sales in Spain and Portugal.

Gemma Boothroyd, an analyst at investment platform Freetrade, said: “Even with dwindling in-store sales, Primark has managed to maintain its market share compared to the same period two years ago.

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“That’s a notable feat given the number of new digital entrants, who would have been primed and ready to steal some of its customers during lockdowns.”

However, competition from fast fashion retailers online, who have seen significant growth through coronavirus lockdowns as consumers changed their shopping habits, is a threat to Primark, Ms Boothroyd added.

“[Primark’s] website is more of a tool for shoppers to check in-store inventory prior to hitting the shops. If anything, this seems likely to result in decreased sales for the brand,” she said.

“For now, Primark’s proven it has staying power, but if it’s finally going to go digital, it needs to do it right. Otherwise, it’s going to find itself in an omnichannel no man’s land.”

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