Primark has confirmed plans to reopen all 153 of its stores in England on June 15, after the government gave non-essential shops the go-ahead to welcome customers again.
The retailer’s parent company AB Foods said it expected to have reopened 281 of its stores worldwide by that date, having already reopened 112 of its sites across mainland Europe.
Primark’s stores in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will remain closed as AB Foods awaits further guidance on when non-essential retailers can reopen, but anticipates openings in “late June”.
AB Foods shut all of its UK Primark stores in late March when the nationwide lockdown was implemented.
As the retailer does not have an ecommerce channel at all, the lockdown resulted in a loss of around £650 million for every month that all stores were closed.
AB Foods said it cut more than 50 per cent off overheads at Primark in a bid to stabilise its finances during the pandemic.
“As European governments have begun to ease restrictions on clothing retailing we have been able to reopen stores,” AB Foods said in a statement.
“Safety has been our highest priority in our detailed preparations to welcome our customers and employees back to stores. We are following government safety advice in all markets.
“Importantly, we will apply the valuable experience gained from more than 100 stores which are already open as we open the remainder of our estate, including stores across the UK.
“Social distancing protocols, hand sanitiser stations, perspex screens at tills and additional cleaning of high frequency touch points in the store are among the measures we are implementing.”
The retailer said trading has been “reassuring and encouraging” in its recently reopened stores, with queues outside most sites.
Nevertheless, it said cumulative like-for-like sales since reopening have been lower than the same period last year.
AB Foods added that “as long as social distancing is required, we expect it to restrict the capacity of our busiest stores from achieving their aggregate pre-Covid-19 sales”.
AB Foods announced last month that it had written down the value of its stock by £284 million to reflect realistic pricing when stores reopen.
It is also reportedly seeking 400,000sq ft of warehouse space on a short-term lease to store £1.5 billion worth of surplus inventory is received from overseas suppliers during the lockdown.
Meanwhile, operating profits in AB Foods’ grocery FMCG business will be ahead of forecasts after “stronger sales” of branded products, although profits in its sugar arm are predicted to slip.
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