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'Flying off the shelves': Primark sales soar in reopened markets

·2-min read
Retail shoppers in Belfast

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) -Primark's sales exceeded pre-pandemic levels and management expectations in its latest quarter as stores reopened after COVID-19 lockdowns and consumers splashed out to update their wardrobes.

The fashion retailer's owner Associated British Foods said Primark's sales were up 207% year-on-year to 1.61 billion pounds ($2.23 billion) in the 16 weeks to June 19, while like-for-like sales were up 3% compared the same period two years ago, before the pandemic hit.

In the same period last year the first lockdowns closed all Primark stores for an average of 12 weeks. Primark has stores across Europe and the United States, but does not trade online.

This year one in five stores were open at the beginning of the quarter, while all 396 were open at the end.

Shares in AB Foods were up 5% at 0837 GMT, extending year-on-year gains to 18.5%.

AB Foods finance chief John Bason said the performance reflected an increase in both confidence and willingness to spend by customers compared to previous reopenings after lockdown.

"Some of the fashion is flying off the shelves," he told Reuters.

"That is a return to people really wanting to buy things because they're starting to go out again, whereas previously, after the other two lockdowns, it really was all about leisurewear or nightwear or things for the home."

Bason said Primark had sold out of "really hot items", such as pink gingham and purple power blazers and seam-free two-piece sets.

But he noted sales of swimwear for foreign holidays and formalwear were still down, reflecting the lack of overseas travel and people still working from home.

He said data for the total UK clothing market, which includes online sales, for the seven-week period after reopening showed both volume and value share gains for Primark on a two-year basis.

With higher expectations for Primark's final-quarter sales, AB Foods raised its forecast for the division's 2020-21 adjusted operating profit before repayment of government job retention scheme monies to "broadly in line" with 2019-20's 362 million pounds, versus previous guidance of "somewhat lower".

AB Foods also owns major sugar, grocery, agriculture and ingredients businesses. Third-quarter grocery sales fell 3%, while sugar revenues jumped 21%.

The group now expects full-year adjusted operating profit to be in line with last year's 1 billion pounds.

($1 = 0.7231 pounds)

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Kate Holton and Jan Harvey)

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