Primark has always been defiantly, pleasingly, opposed to the internet.
It would leave fancy ideas like e-commerce to the youngsters. Upstarts like boohoo were free to make digital merriment. Primark would stick to what it knew best: really cheap clothes in really big stores.
Privately, Primark bosses might mock Amazon and those selling via Amazon for having taken on the cost of delivering goods that would otherwise be borne by the consumer.
Those e-tailers still needed stores, or at least warehouses, so the notion that the internet was cheaper simply didn’t stack up, went the argument.
It worked brilliantly well for years. What the business model didn’t allow for was a global pandemic that shut down vast swathes of the economy for months on end, probably destroying large chunks of the high street for ever.
Primark stores are going to look pretty lonely on their own; they will hardly be appealing places to visit if they are.
A survey today by A&M reckons that 17 million UK consumers will make permanent changes to the way they shop in light of the risks of the virus.
Primark had earlier warned that the closure of its stores would cost it £650 million in lost revenue – every month.
Today those chickens roosted. Sales are down 75% in the last quarter.
The company’s response is to say initial trading since the stores re-opened has been “reassuring and encouraging”. There have been strong sales of shorts and t-shirts as folk bet they can rescue at least some of the summer.
Over at John Lewis, they admit that some of its stores will simply never re-open. That everything is different.
Primark thinks it can go back to the future. And that it can continue to thrive without internet sales.