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UK fashion store Primark sees limited Omicron impact as trade climbs

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By Reuters
AB Foods says Primark trading ahead of expectations
AB Foods says Primark trading ahead of expectations   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By James Davey

LONDON -Primark has not seen much impact on shopper numbers so far from the emergence of Omicron with trading ahead of expectations, its owner Associated British Foods said on Friday, two weeks after Britain raised concerns about the coronavirus variant.

Primark’s like-for-like sales improved in the first two and a half months of its 2021-2022 financial year, which began on Sept. 19, compared with the last three months of the previous year.

“In terms of the Omicron variant we haven’t really seen much of an effect on footfall,” AB Foods finance chief John Bason told Reuters. “We’re trading well over Christmas.”

AB Foods, which has 400 stores in Europe and the United States but does not trade online, said it noted that the incidence of COVID-19 cases was increasing.

To date, public health measures in Primark’s markets have mainly involved restricting trading hours in the Netherlands, the requirement for vaccine passes in Germany and the closure of five stores in Austria.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed tougher COVID-19 measures in England, ordering people to work from home from Dec. 13 to slow the spread of the variant.

The group, whose shares were up 0.5% at 0906 GMT, said Primark was managing disruption in its supply chain by prioritising products most in demand with help from logistics providers, ensuring it had stock cover on the vast majority of lines for the Christmas trading period.

Primark’s margin in the year to date was also ahead of expectations.

“Looking ahead we currently expect Primark sales to be significantly better than sales in the comparable period in the last financial year, from December 2020 to April 2021, when the estate was largely closed,” the group said before its annual shareholders’ meeting.

AB Foods also owns major sugar, grocery, ingredients and agricultural operations, which it said had traded in line with expectations so far in its new financial year.

The group’s grocery brands include Silver Spoon sugar, Twinings tea, Jordans cereals, Kingsmill bread and Ovaltine drinks.

It said it had offset rising energy, logistics and commodities costs with savings and price rises where necessary.

The group said it continued to expect “significant progress” at the half-year mark and full year in operating profit and earnings per share.