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Primark Invades U.S. Market

Dublin-based Primark intends to invade U.S. shores, taking over a massive retail space formerly occupied by Filene’s Department Store.

Primark’s courtship of American consumers begins in Boston with a palatial 70,000 square feet retail space, slated to open sometime in the second half of 2015. In 2016, its strategy is to follow with more store openings, beginning in the middle of 2016. So far, the company has no plans to open a New York location.

George Weston, chief executive of Associated British Foods, which owns Primark, expressed his enthusiasm for the retailer’s expansion. “We think what Primark does, the combination of up-to-date fashion at great prices, will be attractive to American shoppers too.”

Primark intends to move into the U.S. incrementally, using the first store’s performance as a bellwether of consumer appetite. “We will enter this market the same way we have entered other European markets, France, Germany, Spain. We will get some stores open. We know we have a lot to learn, but we will start learning the moment we start trading,” said Weston.

While Primark is headquartered in Ireland, its European stores are supplied via warehouses located in the UK. However, the retailer plans to open warehouses in the U.S. to supply the new stores it launches there.

Maureen Hinton, group research director of retail at Conlumino, communicated her appraisal of Primark’s prospects for success to the Financial Times. “Primark has definitely got the makings of a global fashion brand,” she said. “It will do really well [in the US] in that it is cheaper and its got a definite profile. I am sure that the likes of Forever 21 are quaking in their boots.”

Primark is one of the largest clothing retailers in Europe with 271 stores and 51,200 employees. The company was founded in 1969 in Ireland, where it continues to sell as Penneys. In the six months leading up to March 1, it made an operating profit of $412 million, compared to $328 million the same time last year. Its sales jumped from $2.8 billion to $3.15 billion.

Primark sells womenswear, lingerie, children’s wear, menswear, footwear, accessories, hosiery and homeward. Shares of Associated British Foods jumped 9 percent on the news of the U.S. expansion.