Primarks CEO says those who think online shopping shift is permanent are “wrong” and “naive”


Primark’s chief executive Paul Marchant has slammed claims that COVID-19 has brought about a permanent shift to online shopping.

In an article published in The Times, Marchant took aim at pundits who claim “COVID-19 has merely speeded up an inevitable and permanent shift from in-store to online shopping”, calling them “wrong” and “naïve”.

Marchant cites research conducted by his wildly popular fast fashion brand Primark, which reportedly suggests that shoppers “civic pride and, by extension, self-esteem” comes from their hometown, village or city.

Therefore, boarded up high streets full of closed and collapsed retailers “chisels away” at people’s sense of self-worth.

He goes on to argue that physical shopping is an “extremely important” aspect of our social lives across demographics.

READ MORE: Primark to introduce 24hr trading in 11 stores amid post-lockdown plans

It comes just a week after Primark reopened its doors after the second national lockdown to queues stretching the length of high streets.

The second lockdown hit Primark hard, seeing its parent company Associated British Foods report a £430 million sales decline, significantly more than the £375 million it had previously anticipated.

To make up for lost time Primark announced plans to open 11 of its stores for 24 hours on December 2 when lockdown was lifted.

It is also planning to open one store in Scotland for 36 hours from Friday December 11, hoping to capitalise on a post-lockdown Christmas rush.

This has urged Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon to call on retailers to “please, please be responsible”.

“I’m not going to stand here and comment on things picked up on social media about 36 hours continuous openings (but) retailers have to be responsible for their own sake,” she continued.

“If we find over the next few days that we start to have crowded people in shops and the virus starts spiralling again, then I can’t rule out standing here shutting down non-essential retail again.”

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7 Comments. Leave new

  • Angela Clements
    December 10, 2020 1:50 pm

    I enjoy online shopping from the comfort of home but its not the same as going in store and looking around with a friend

  • I prefer online shopping as feel safer, there are no crowds. Even when safe I wont go back. Have groceries delivered, fruit and veg and milk delivered. Any clothes I order online, it is easy to send back when collected from my door. I dont miss shops at all except for coffee shops and restaurants.

  • 2 different concepts: channel shift vs channel exclusivity.
    “permanent shift from in-store to online shopping”…
    Yes, a shift to INcreased dependence (if not preference) for digital channels and tech options through entire shopper journey…from discovery to delivery.
    No, to a complete shift to digital/non store journey. I have not previously heard of anyone who believes that.

    Personally, my shopping has very little to do with “civic pride”. I shop & buy globally. If equal product & equal price, sure shop locally. But the product/service is first. Unfortuantely that does not keep Mom & Pop shops open.

  • Agree 100% with the CEO, I’m in the footwear trade myself. People buy people. We need to touch and feel in order to make the purchase. On line buyers still go into stores to look and feel, take a picture then sold off home to buy online.
    The tide will turn moving forward with online sales. Free returns will soon go. Then see them walk back into stores!

    • Not to mention the environmental impact and carbon footprint all the online ‘traffic’ creates. I also agree with Paul, we all still need the high street.

    • Primark is right about footwear and bras can only be bought in store to try on

  • High Street shops have a bought a lot of this on there selves by there own greed…..constantly employing people on part time or zero hour contracts and not committing to there employees…..most high Street shops have the youngest people employed they can so they can pay the least……a lot of them are untrained at even basic face to face relations and don’t know how to talk to people….again a lot of this is because of social media… own kids included …..they almost come across as rude as they simply arnt used to speaking to people….I think the high street has left it to late to turn round now…….the high street stores simply havnt learnt the older generation has so much to offer…..


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