Primark will trial a click-and-collect service in the UK, as part of the budget fashion chain’s first major move towards online shopping, as it confirmed price hikes were on the way.
The high street retailer will launch the trial in 25 stores in the North West of England by the end of the year, but said it would only cover children’s clothing and accessories, as the company – owned by Associated British Foods (ABF) – is trying to attract more families to its stores.
“We have chosen a very extensive range of children’s products for this trial, which we believe has the potential to satisfy unmet demand, attracting existing and new customers to drive additional in-store sales,” ABF said in in the context of a commercial exchange. update Monday.
Customers will be able to order around 2,000 items online – just 40% of the range – including nursery furniture, clothing multipacks and licensed products, such as Disney t-shirts, which the retailer says would be “particularly attractive to our customers who do. do not buy regularly in our department stores”.
George Weston, chief executive of ABF, said the trial was intended to “give more customers more reason to come to our stores”. He said the company will test the idea for several months and, if it proves to generate additional sales, may release it from the Northwest or add other product categories.
He said shoppers could immediately try on items they ordered online at designated collection areas and pick up additional items from the store if they wanted. Click-and-collect and in-store returns will be offered free of charge as part of the trial.
Primark has so far only used its website to give customers an overview of clothes on sale and, more recently, to give shoppers information on stock levels at local stores.
The announcement came as ABF released a business statement showing Primark’s sales rose 81% in the 12 weeks to May 28 compared to the same period in 2021, to 1.7 billion of pounds sterling. Sales in the quarter were also 4% higher than the same period in 2019, before Covid and subsequent shutdowns forced its stores to close.
Weston said Primark was benefiting from a rebound in shopping for nights out and holidays, with a 50% increase in suitcase sales compared to 2019 and increased sales of other holiday essentials such as beach towels and bathing suits.
Downtown stores are also performing much better with the return of tourists and office workers, although sales in these stores are still below pre-pandemic levels.
“The return of tourism and more office work combined with improved weather across all of our markets has resulted in a strong customer response to our fashion ranges,” the company said.
Despite disappointing trade figures from online fashion specialists Boohoo and Asos, Weston said young shoppers were not yet cutting back their spending significantly, suggesting wage increases for part-time workers and less exposure to energy bills had protected them more than “less affluent families”.
John Bason, ABF’s chief financial officer, said the cost of living crisis was affecting people, but Primark was “as well placed as we could be” in a tougher market. “I would be amazed if we don’t attract more people to Primark than we would have before,” he said.
Nonetheless, Primark is set to raise prices in the coming weeks, as it first announced in April, and Bason said they are likely to increase again in February as the cost of fabrics such as viscose and cotton had increased as well as energy, transport and labour. The strengthening of the dollar, with which most garment factories are paid, vis-à-vis the euro and the pound has also increased the pressure on costs.
Weston said Primark was also closely monitoring events in China where the shutdowns were affecting some factories and ports, threatening potential disruption to stock deliveries.