· 4 min read
Fast fashion—it’s the pillar of American consumerism. Everyone wants a piece of it, including Primark, the British retailer known for its affordable clothing, accessories, and homeware.
The retailer has its eyes set on the US, with expansion plans in place and a focus on elevating the in-store experience and wooing the suburban American customer.
Although it’s had a limited presence in the US since 2015 (13 stores in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia), the retailer plans to add 60 new stores over the next five years, in markets including North Carolina, Maryland, and Connecticut.
- All stores will be located in or around malls, and in areas with higher population density.
“As a bricks-and-mortar retailer, we're looking for great footfall areas,” Kevin Tulip, Primark’s US president, told Retail Brew. “So we're looking for those great malls or those great downtown areas that have great footfall.”
- Primark's top-performing stores include those at Kings Plaza Shopping Center in Brooklyn and the Staten Island Mall, which Tulip credits to population density. “That’s why we’ve announced [other stores on] Jamaica Avenue in Queens,” Tulip explained, and in Long Island.
- The expansion is part of a larger growth trajectory; the company aims to have 530 stores around the globe by 2026.
American consumers have responded enthusiastically to Primark's licensing partnerships, like collaborations with Disney featuring Mickey Mouse, Bambi, and Lilo & Stitch, Tulip told us. He also cited the success of Primark’s Stranger Things campaign featuring a line of apparel and accessories.
Tulip said that although the licensed products also retailed in the UK, they’re “likely to be even more important for us in…US stores."
Primark's clothing lines have also benefited from "word of mouth" marketing,” since Primark does not invest big $$ in advertising, a strategy the retailer has stuck with since its inception. Tulip said it has also helped Primark maintain its “cost-conscious” model. “One of the reasons why we can sell our product at the amazing price of that is that we don't do big advertisements or big marketing campaigns,” Tulip told us, adding that ultimately, it is low-priced apparel items that drive customers into stores and “not spending on advertising or expensive marketing.”
Another factor that keeps costs in check is a laser focus on in-store sales. In fact, beyond a “click-and-collect” model that Primark is testing in the UK, it does not sell items online.“
We believe that people want to be able to look for experiences in our stores,” Tulip explained, noting that the company has improved stores by adding wi-fi, additional fitting rooms, and faster checkout to “delight” its customers.
Keeping it in-stores
Although the click-and-collect model is something the retailer eventually wants to bring to the US—depending on its success at home—that is as far as it goes in terms of e-commerce for Primark. “It's about bringing that customer in…particularly by being able to order online, pick up in store, but maybe from a bigger, broader range that they wouldn't be able to find in that smaller store.”
While brick and mortar maintains its relevance in the broader retail realm, Primark’s competitors, like H&M and Uniqlo, have also found success with an omnichannel strategy. But although the metaverse and NFTs are making waves, Primark doesn’t appear to be afraid of being left behind.
“I genuinely believe there will always be disruptors in this industry, as in any industry,” Tulip said. “But I honestly think that people want to be able to experience something [IRL], they want to be with people, they want to be able to see the product, feel the fabric, try something on…that will always still be central to a shopping experience.”—JS
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