LONDON (Reuters) – Fashion retailer Primark plans to reopen all 153 of its stores in England on June 15 as coronavirus restrictions are eased, encouraged by European stores that have already resumed trading.
FILE PHOTO: The shutters are closed to the entrance of a Primark store on Oxford Street because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo
The faster than expected reopening sent shares in Primark’s owner, Associated British Foods, up as much as 8% in early Monday trading.
All Primark stores were closed over 12-days from March 11 as the virus spread, costing it 650 million pounds a month in sales.
With governments now easing restrictions, Primark is trading from 112 stores across Europe and the United States, or 34% of total selling space. By June 15, it plans to have 281 stores open, or 79% of selling space, including all stores in England.
It hopes to have all of its 378 shops open by late June, including those in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
“Trading in our re-opened stores (including in Germany and Spain) has been both reassuring and encouraging, with customer queues outside most stores,” AB Foods said.
But it cautioned cumulative sales since reopening, on a like-for-like basis, were down on the same period last year.
It believes social distancing measures will likely only affect sales to some extent in its busiest stores, representing 10-20% of pre-COVID-19 total Primark sales.
AB Foods finance chief John Bason told Reuters Primark had also placed hundreds of millions of pounds of orders with suppliers for autumn/winter stock, adding to existing stock worth 1.9 billion pounds.
Bason said Primark had no plans for a fire sale of excess stock as it would store much of it for next year, and would not re-think its lack of an online business.
AB Foods said it was too early to resume overall earnings guidance for its 2019-20 fiscal year, but said grocery operating profit would be ahead of previous expectations and it now expected a lower profit from AB Sugar.
Reporting by James Davey; editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Potter