Primark 'will extend hours' for shoppers returning after lockdown

Primark ‘will extend opening hours’ for shoppers returning to the high street once lockdown rules are eased in April as firm prepares to reveal £1.1BILLION sales hit over last six months

  • Primark is ‘looking at all options’, with longer opening times said to be discussed
  • It follows a similar move in December under Tier system which saw huge queues
  • Meanwhile bosses prepare to reveal a sales hit of £1.1billion over last six months

Primark stores will extend their opening hours across England when lockdown is eased in April, reports say.

The fast fashion retailer is ‘looking at all options’, with longer opening times one idea being discussed, according to the Sun.

It follows a similar move in December under the Tier system which saw huge queues rack up outside shops across the country.

Meanwhile bosses from parent company Associated British Foods are preparing to announce a sales hit of £1.1billion over the last six months amid the pandemic.

Primark will reopen 153 stores in England on April 12, 20 in Scotland on April 26, but has not said when its Northern Ireland Wales shops will open their doors.

The fast fashion retailer is ‘looking at all options’, with longer opening times reportedly one idea being discussed. Pictured: Crowds in December

Hundreds of shoppers were seen queuing outside Primark in Fort Park Shopping Centre in Birmingham in December. The retailer is expecting a summer spending spree at its stores

The dates will come as a relief for bosses as ABF say they will have lost out on sales of £1.1billion due to Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns in the past six months.

ABF said it expects to take a further £480 million hit to sales in the second half of its financial year – March to August – but expects a strong boost once stores can reopen and pent-up demand is met.

The company added that, despite the heavy falls, sales at Primark in the six months to February 27 are still expected to come in at £2.2billion, as some stores remain open overseas and taking into account sales periods before the new restrictions were introduced.

But this is well down on the £3.7billion in the same period a year earlier, prior to the global pandemic.

Just 77 stores are currently open – representing 22 per cent of total store selling space – primarily in the US.

Primark has revealed sale losses of £1.1 billion over the last six months amid the coronavirus pandemic (file photo)

Bosses said they expect to be ‘highly cash-generative’ when stores can finally reopen, with 83 per cent of floor space able to welcome customers by April 26, based on current estimates and government announcements in different countries.

ABF said it has saved money through cost-cutting measures to mitigate the falling sales and still has spring and summer stock from a year ago that could not be sold due to the pandemic, which will go into stores when they reopen.

Later in the year, stores will also be able to rely on the autumn and winter collections from last year.

The company said: ‘We expect the period after reopening to be very cash-generative.

‘We expect to sell the £150 million of spring/summer inventory held over from last year, and our cash outlay in the second half for the coming autumn/winter season will mostly benefit from the £260 million autumn/winter stock held over from the first half.’

It added that, when stores were open, trading continued to be strong, with sales up 15 per cent on a like-for-like basis compared with last year.

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However, the number of customers when stores could open was down and trading hours restricted.

It added: ‘Performance has varied by store, reflecting the prevailing circumstances of our customers including home working, less commuting and very little tourism.

‘Like-for-like sales at our stores in retail parks were higher than a year ago, shopping centre and regional high street stores were lower than last year, and large destination city centre stores, which are heavily reliant on tourism and commuters, continue to see a significant decline in footfall.’

The company added that it expects adjusted operating profit for Primark in the first half to be marginally above break-even, compared with an adjusted operating profit of £441 million for the same period in the last financial year.

Based on the recent announcements by the UK Government, bosses said they expect to reopen 153 stores in England on April 12, and it is hoped a further 20 in Scotland can open by the end of April.

ABF’s other divisions in grocery, sugar, agriculture and ingredients are expected to see revenues and profits ahead of expectations, the company added.

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