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Primark lost £430m of sales as stores closed during lockdown

Primark lost £430m of sales during the national lockdown in England and restrictions in the rest of the UK, France, Belgium and Austria.

The cut-price fashion retailer had previously forecast sales would be down £375m. It has re-opened stores in England, France, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland in the past week with extended opening hours. Eleven stores are to open 24 hours a day to try to make up for lost sales in the run-up to Christmas. 

Shoppers queued outside some branches ahead of the re-opening but 34 sites remain closed including all stores in Northern Ireland and Austria.

Associated British Foods (ABF), which owns Primark as well as a range of brands including Twining’s tea and Kingsmill, said operating costs fell by one-quarter at the stores which were closed.

Sales have been “very strong” since stores re-opened, ABF chairman Michael McLintock said in a trading update on Friday.

Mr McLintock said ABF had prepared as fully as possible for the end of the Brexit transition period on 1 January.  

He said: “Following the UK’s exit from the EU, our businesses have completed all practical preparations for the end of the transition period this month and contingency plans are in place should our businesses experience some disruption at that time.”

He said: “Notwithstanding the currently announced periods of restriction, we continue to expect Primark sales and profit to be higher this financial year compared to last. We will continue to expand retail selling space.”

Since the start of this financial year, ABF has opened new clothing stores in the US with sites in New Jersey and Florida.

Strong sales were also seen in the company’s first store in Rome in Italy, and a fifth site was opened in Barcelona, Spain.