Compliment an Irish woman on her clothing and there’s a strong chance you’ll see a twinkle in her eye as she replies: “Penneys.”
She’ll be celebrating that she’s looking good and fashionable in an outfit she got at basement prices.
You might get a similar response from a woman in the UK except she would say, Primark, which is how Penneys is known in Britain.
Penneys opened its first store in Dublin in 1969. The combination of good quality, trendy clothes at more than reasonable prices proved irresistible and the chain quickly spread across to the UK and Europe.
Now it’s well on the way to conquering America. It opened its first store in Boston in 2015 under the name of Primark – it can only trade as Penneys in Ireland; for the rest of the world it uses the Primark label to avoid confusion with JC Penney.
Primark went down a storm with Bostonians and more stores quickly followed across the States. Now, according to Stores, magazine of the US National Retail Federation, it’s the fastest growing retailer in the United States.
Primark now has nine stores in the US and plans to open many more. According to Business Insider, the expansion is timed to exploit the explosion in value-oriented stores in the US.
According to a study by Morgan Stanley, Primark prices are on average only a quarter of those charged by other US clothing stores.
The company keeps prices rock bottom by running a highly efficient distribution system, keeping advertising to a minimum and buying in huge bulk from suppliers across the world. Its profit margins are very low, but it makes up for that with huge sales volumes.
Primark has also bucked the trend of the last 20 years by not selling online. It says online selling wouldn’t work because shipping costs would eat up its small margin of profit. Instead, it showcases products online but shoppers have to go to the stores to buy.