Last week saw the opening of Primark’s much anticipated largest ever store. Residing in Birmingham, it has transformed what was the Pavilion's Shopping Centre - a space large enough to once house a H&M, M&S and Waterstones amongst several others; into a four storey Primark mega-store.
According to Opinium’s Retail Tracker of 1,000 consumers; Primark is probably in the best position to be making a move like this, as they dominate on claimed visitation for fashion – 46% of women claiming they shop there for clothing, +10% above the nearest retailer (New Look) and 32% of men, +3% above the nearest retailer (M&S).
At a time where so many stores are closing and well-known brands struggle to keep their estates afloat, what can be learnt from this opening? Could other retailers emulate such a brave move?
The impact of the new store launch was immediately apparent in Birmingham. Nearly every other person walking the streets of the city this weekend, was carrying at least one of the overflowing recognisable brown paper bags, with the blue Primark logo emblazoned on its sides. And the scene at the store's entrance immediately revealed why.
A long queue of eager customers queuing towards the entrance, were being allowed in at a measured and steady pace, and handed a basket on their way in. One of the many Primark shopping tactics in driving volume purchase, done in such a subtle and customer friendly way.
Music from a nearby DJ was playing loudly, while customers were hastily making their way through rails of clothing, trying desperately to find that piece they wanted, in their size. For the most part, the shopping experience was not too dissimilar to any other Primark – just on a much larger scale.
But there were some well thought out additions, which showcase Primark’s innate understanding of their customers and the three E’s from the in-store experience they require. So, what can we learn from these?
What looked like not being far off a staffing military operation; Primark focussed its efforts on queue management – whether that be entering the store, trying on clothing or making the actual purchase itself. There were plenty staff on hand to direct you to where you should be and to ensure you had everything you needed, when you needed it. One standout element is that the staff members are tasked to stand at the back of long queues, so you knew where to join and to overcome ‘pushing in’ – Britishness at its best! It’s this sort of management that consumers never knew they needed but worked seamlessly in handling expectations.
The retail buzz word of the last few years and an area that Primark appears to have mastered well with the opening of this store. It offers everything a consumer might need from a day out, all in one giant four-storey building. Hungry? Eat at one of the three restaurants on offer. Tired? Don’t worry, there are plenty of resting areas throughout the store, equipped with sofas and charging points. Going out tonight? Sure, book in at the Duck and Dry salon or speak to someone at the beauty stand about the latest looks. Looking for a gift? If the product range available wasn’t enough, why not try the personalisation area? It will be interesting to see how popular these elements remain in the future and whether they will truly drive increased footfall during such a dry period for the high street, but they were definitely a hit this weekend!
3. Environmental Impact
Most interestingly is the focus that Primark’s corporate responsibility has on marketing and signage throughout the store. A hot bed of issues for the fashion industry at the moment (for Primark even more so); they aren’t afraid to face the topic head on. With reassurance throughout the building on how materials are sustainably sourced, staff are well looked after and animal welfare is a key priority for them. As a brand, they clearly know that this is one of their main challenges and so hats off for using such a public forum to tackle these concerns – something other marketers could take note from. However, it raises the question as to whether this is what those coming in to Primark are looking for? Or does this message alongside their low pricing instead raise more of a personal dilemma than it resolves?
Primark’s dominance looks set to continue, as 71% of 18-24 year-old women and 51% of 18-24 year-old men claim that Primark is their go-to for Fashion. Astonishing figures really, when Primark is the only fashion retailer to not have an online store, relying purely on their bricks-and-mortar experience.
And although Primark offers the latest fashion at low cost price – the experience the retailer has showcased in the latest store opening shows that low prices appear not to be the only draw, as the retail tracker shows very little difference in claimed shopping behaviours between SEG groups.
So, has Primark bucked the trends? And is UK’s Primania here to stay? If left up to consumers to decide, it seems so.
With only 3% predicting that Primark will be one of the retailers to disappear from the high street in the next couple of years. In contrast to the 20% and 19% who forecasted Debenhams and House of Fraser respectively; as well as 11% and 10% who have concerns about M&S and New Look.
And with 46% of consumers disagreeing with the fact that many retailers closing on the high street doesn’t bother them, it appears that moves like opening a new store earn Primark a secure place in the hearts of consumers.
Hannah Teale is the associate director at Opinium.