Primark’s parent company has defended its choice not to offer an online shop, despite the pandemic and numerous lockdowns in the UK and abroad halting in-person shopping over the past year.
“The footfall last week gives us every indication that millions of other people want to get back on the high street,” George Weston, chief executive of Associated British Foods, which owns Primark, said according to the Times.
“It’s where we go for coffee, to meet friends, to see a movie, go shopping, touch and feel clothing. I personally don’t want to live my life behind a screen. I think all of that is just a normal part of life – a permanent part of being human, really.”
Despite lockdowns at home and abroad costing Primark about £3 billion in sales and £1 billion in profits over the past year, Weston maintained that opening an online store would be bad for the chain: “Our cost advantage comes from the fact that we are a bricks and mortar retailer which has neither the picking up costs, nor the distribution costs, of an online retailer.”
England and Wales easing their respective lockdowns in April had helped Primark to record sales in its first week back open, ABF said.
Not everything went smoothly, however – Primark was forced to apologise after toilet closures meant a Bristol mother resorted to changing her baby’s nappy on the shop floor.
ABF, which also owns Twinings, Silver Spoon, British Sugar, and Patak’s, said its business was sufficiently robust over the past year that it will repay the furlough money it received from governments, including £72 million from the UK exchequer, during the coronavirus crisis. It also said it will not make any further claims under government job retention schemes.