Cantillon: Primark ends 2013 with tartan and trophies

Chain’s success comes despite links to Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh

Against the odds, 2013 has ended on a number of positive notes for Primark. On Thursday night, the budget fashion chain won two mannequin torso-shaped trophies at the Drapers Fashion Awards: fashion retail business of the year (in the turnover of more than £125 million category) and international fashion retailer of the year. The awards, according to Primark chief executive Paul Marchant, reflect its ability to deliver "amazing fashion at amazing prices sold in an exciting retail environment".

This is not just executive-speak. Earlier this month, Primark announced a 44 per cent rise in profits, as sales for 2012 rocketed 22 per cent. The chain, which trades as Penneys in Ireland, enjoyed revenues of almost £4.3 billion
(€5.14 billion) and underlying profits of £514 million.

This winter, Primark’s “exciting retail environment” is a frenzied bazaar of zipped hoodies and all-things tartan at prices somewhat cheaper than the mid-market’s cashmere jumpers.

But when it reports its earnings for 2013, Primark's corporate literature is likely to feature three words less pleasant than "exciting retail environment", and they are "Rana Plaza disaster".


The chain's success comes despite the fact that it has links to the factory collapse in Bangladesh last April that killed more than 1,100 workers. But for some consumers, at least, fast fashion will forever have too high a cost.