Primark is set to extend its opening hours for shops when it reopens to customers across England next month.
Retail bosses have said that they are “looking at all options” for reopening, including longer hours, after losing out on sales of £1.1 billion due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
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Primark is expected to take a further £480 million hit to its sales in the second half of its financial year (from March to August), but believes it will have a strong boost to sales once stores can reopen, according to company owner Associated British Foods (ABF).
ABF said that despite the fall in profits, sales at the retailer in the six months to 27 February are still expected to reach £2.2 billion due to some stores remaining open overseas, plus the sales that were made before the current restrictions were put in place.
However, this is significantly lower than the £3.7 billion made a year earlier, before the global pandemic.
Just 77 Primark stores are currently open, representing 22 per cent of total store selling space, with these primarily being based in the US.
Bosses said they expect to be “highly cash-generative” when stores can finally reopen, with 83 per cent of floor space able to welcome customers by 26 April, based on current estimates and government announcements in different countries.
ABF said it has saved money through cost-cutting measures to mitigate the falling sales and still has spring and summer stock from a year ago that could not be sold due to the pandemic, which will go into stores when they reopen.
Later in the year, shops will also be able to rely on the autumn and winter collections from last year.
The company said: “We expect the period after reopening to be very cash-generative. We expect to sell the £150 million of spring/summer inventory held over from last year, and our cash outlay in the second half for the coming autumn/winter season will mostly benefit from the £260 million autumn/winter stock held over from the first half.”
It added that, when stores were open, trading continued to be strong, with sales up 15 per cent on a like-for-like basis compared with last year. However, the number of customers when stores could open was down and trading hours restricted.
It added: “Performance has varied by store, reflecting the prevailing circumstances of our customers including home working, less commuting and very little tourism.
“Like-for-like sales at our stores in retail parks were higher than a year ago, shopping centre and regional high street stores were lower than last year, and large destination city centre stores, which are heavily reliant on tourism and commuters, continue to see a significant decline in footfall.”
When will stores reopen?
Based on the announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson regarding the roadmap out of lockdown, Primark bosses said they expect to reopen 153 stores in England on 12 April.
This is the earliest date most non-essential retailers, such as clothing stores, are due to reopen.
However, the government has warned that this date could change depending on Covid-19 infection rate over the coming weeks and months.
As well as non-essential retailers, the following business are also expected to reopen from 12 April, providing it is safe to do so:
- Nail and beauty salons
- Outdoor attractions, including zoos and theme parks
- Outdoor hospitality venues, such as beer gardens
- Indoor leisure, such as swimming pools and gyms
- Self-contained holiday accommodation, such as self-catering lets and camp sites