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Primark’s Giving E-Commerce a Go

Primark will allow shoppers to collect items purchased online in one of roughly two dozen pilot stores trialing the new service in August.

The development comes as the Irish fast-fashion retailer saw traffic to its newly improved digital site climb 60 percent, with the average customer “viewing twice as many pages per session” and nearly 15 percent of browsers using the feature to see which products are in stock in store, Primark parent Associated British Foods (ABF) said on Monday.

Roughly 40 percent of the 2,000 apparel, accessories and home products available through the click and collect pilot launching in up to 25 Primark stores will be exclusive to the service. While it tests the offering, ABF said employees will manually pack click and collect orders at a dedicated distribution center and automate the process later when it’s time to scale.

There’s no charge to use click and collect or return items purchased through the service in store, it added.

Sales at the 403-store chain rebounded in the third quarter ended May 28, up 81 percent to 1.73 billion pounds ($2.12 billion), with year-to-date sales up 69 percent to 5.27 billion pounds ($6.45 billion). This was largely the result of all Primark stores being open in the period versus last year when some were subject to Covid-19 restrictions. Versus the same pre-Covid quarter, sales were up 4 percent.

Also encouraging is that higher prices didn’t seem to scare shoppers away.

ABF said comparable sales in the U.K. and Ireland have improved, while remaining Covid restrictions are holding back some areas of the European continent. Still, ABF expects Primark to hit a 10 percent adjusted operating profit margin for the full year.

Primark apparel, footwear and accessories sales in the UK for the 12 weeks through May 1 were in line with their 2019 benchmarks on a bounce back in tourism and more people returning to their offices.

Customers responded to dresses, heels and blouses in bright colors, according to ABF, which said swimwear, sliders and beach towel sales “strengthened over the quarter as customers looked to holiday travel and leisure activities.”

Licensed product for the Lilo & Stitch and Stranger Things franchises drew an “exceptionally strong customer response,” it added.

It plans to open stores in Chieti and Bologna in Italy, Brno in Czechia, Tallaght in Ireland and Jamaica Avenue, in Queens, N.Y. by the end of August.

“We are making good progress in developing a strong pipeline of new stores for the next financial year and to deliver our ambition to grow our store estate to some 530 stores by the end of our 2026 financial year,” ABF said.

Though Primark is banking on click and click to drum up footfall, Springboard data suggests May’s UK foot traffic could be slowing down versus where it was pre-Covid. The foot traffic tracking firm believes inflation could be keeping shoppers away from stores. However, the Platinum Jubilee celebration honoring Queen Elizabeth’s 70-year-reign bolstered footfall at the start of June. And warmer temperatures encouraged foot traffic in the following weeks as “hot and sunny weather drew customers to outdoor environments,” it said.

“The very hot weather was a dominant feature of last week, increasing footfall across UK retail destinations, but making high streets the choice for consumers until Friday,” said Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s insights director. “Inevitably, once the rain hit on Saturday it was the enclosed environments of shopping centres that became more appealing.”

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