Primark opens to savvy Berliners

  Taoiseach Enda Kenny with (from left) Primark founder Arthur Ryan, Ireland’s Ambassador to Germany Michael Collins and Paul Marchant, CEO Primark, at the official opening of Primark, Alexanderplatz Berlin yesterday.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with (from left) Primark founder Arthur Ryan, Ireland’s Ambassador to Germany Michael Collins and Paul Marchant, CEO Primark, at the official opening of Primark, Alexanderplatz Berlin yesterday.

Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 01:00

It is 22 years since Edina Monsoon, the misunderstood PR genius of Absolutely Fabulous, started a rag-trade revolution. Struggling to get attention for her latest clothing launch, she demanded big screens along the catwalk screaming: “World health. No pollution. Fashion cares!”

Yesterday Penneys took a tip from her playbook, launching its new Primark store in Berlin by showing journalists a video where “care” and “respect” flashed up on the screen. Over uplifting music, Primark executives explained how they identified trends and ran with them.

Running with the trend for fast fashion at low prices has made Primark a household name across Europe and particularly in Germany.

The market that gave us discount retailers Aldi and Lidl is a tough place to survive, filled with customers indoctrinated over decades to believe that quality can always be high and price must always be low.

A few years ago the electrical superstore that once occupied Primark’s new premises captured the zeitgeist with the advertising slogan “Geiz ist geil”, or stinginess is super.

Primark’s daring bid for high-street fashion supremacy in Europe’s largest, toughest retail market is based on the premise that cost-conscious German consumers have an insatiable need for €4 jeggings. It remains to be seen if their business plan caters for ongoing bad publicity, making a growing number of people distinguish between price and cost, such as the human cost of a factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1,100 people.

Primark, one retailer sourcing from the factory, has paid into a compensation fund and insists it takes responsibilities – ethical trading, labour law and environment – seriously.

UK campaigners agree the company has come a long way in the last year, but from a shockingly low base. German customers like a good bargain but they can also spot green-washing a mile away.

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