Primark has announced plans to invest heavily in “a new digital platform” leading to speculation it could finally be considering an ecommerce launch.
This morning Primark’s owner Associated British Foods (ABF) announced that full year sales are set to come below expectations, after the fast-fashion giant was forced to keep its doors closed for a large part of the year.
Primark’s staunch refusal to launch online and focus on its physical store operations was also reportedly impacted by the ‘pingdemic’, reporting a sales drop due to the “rapid and significant increase” in the number of staff forced to self-isolate.
While sales have reportedly recovered since lockdown has been lifted, Primark announced plans to develop a new unspecified digital platform, while stepping up recruitment to create “digital capability within the business”.
“Although Primark has snapped right back into the game, pandemic lessons are clearly lingering and the £1.1 billion in lost sales due to store closures won’t be forgotten overnight,” Hargreaves Lansdown’s senior investment and markets analyst Susannah Streeter said.
“There will now be investment into a new digital platform, and although it’s not clear if it will be transactional, the fact the company says that Primark is on the hunt for talent to create a new digital capability in the business seems to be a big hint that online sales will be part of the retailer’s future.
“At the moment it’s still focusing on its tried and tested model of using online for marketing of in-store ranges with a new improved customer website due to be launched next year, providing details of product availability in its shops.”
The retailer also hailed the “critical role” of its digital marketing capabilities enabling it to deliver “more personalised content” to shoppers over the period.
In 2022, Primark says it plans to launch a “new and improved “customer-facing website”, reportedly allowing it to display more of its stock and give more information, such as in-store availability, to customers.
Primark’s refusal to enter the digital retail world has been criticised by a number of industry experts, with ParcelHero’s head of consumer research David Jinks stating in April that Poundland’s launch online “now leaves the discount fashion chain Primark standing virtually alone as a major High Street chain whose website is still only a shop window.”
Jinks argued that if Poundland, which also operates on razor thin margins, can make online delivery viable then Primark should be able to follow suit.
“Every retailer is hoping that there will never be another national lockdown, but a store such as Primark is particularly vulnerable to any future local closures,” he said.