Fast-fashion giant Primark launched its biggest ever store on Thursday. The five-storey building in Birmingham covers more than 160,000 square feet and includes a Disney café, two other eateries, as well as a barber shop and beauty studio. The development is estimated to have cost around €81 million.
The company said it was a chance for it to do something “special” and says it will offer people "an enhanced shopping experience". But the store opened on the same week that Debenhams was taken over by its lenders as part of an administration process.
Analysts say Primark has succeeded where others have failed because it has allowed its customers to tell it what they want in a department store.
Despite criticism over staff pay and the environmental and social impact of its disposable fashion model, the company reported an increase in UK sales last year.
Primark bosses have always maintained they can afford to keep their prices low as they spend very little on marketing and advertising. Consumer analysts also say that Primark’s decision not to have an online shop works to its advantage.
Professor of Marketing at Aston Business School, Birmingham Heiner Evanschitzky says not being able to get items online, means people are forced to come to a physical store and it leads to impulse shopping. “In-store you have the chance to inspire a customer, you get to say 'look around, browse, think of things you weren't planning on buying'. People know what they are going to get in Primark. It is not like Debenhams and Marks & Spencer, which struggled because they were trying too many different things. They were not positioned in a meaningful way - they have discount elements, high fashion elements and were all over the place."
Primark says it has created more than 500 new jobs at the store as well as bringing another 430 staff from its previous shop.
Around 5,000 people are expected to visit the store in Birmingham today, so much so, that public transport companies have taken to publishing travel advice.