‘Challenging’ November for Primark spooks British retail industry
Irish-run fashion chain is traditionally viewed as most resilient in sector
Primark accounts for about half of Associated British Foods’ revenue and profit. Photograph: Bob Collier/Bloomberg News
Shares in the company that owns the Dublin-based fashion retailer Penneys, which trades abroad as Primark, fell 4.6 per cent on Friday after it surprised investors by announcing the retailer had a “challenging” November.
The announcement by Associated British Foods added to the gloom surrounding the British retail sector, which has experienced a tough 2018 pockmarked by high-profile insolvencies and profit warnings.
Primark, which operates from a headquarters in Dublin’s north inner city, is viewed as one of the most resilient retailers operating in the UK. Associated British Foods blamed a fall in shopper numbers and unseasonably warm weather for negative underlying sales in November.
The Primark update added to evidence of a slowdown in British consumer spending in the run-up to Brexit. Data published on Tuesday showed British consumer spending grew last month at its slowest pace in more than a year.
Associated British Foods finance director John Bason told Reuters Primark’s like-for-like sales were “just positive” in September and October but were negative in November. He declined to give precise numbers.
“This isn’t a call on Christmas – we’ve got three big weekends coming up now before Christmas. But I think it is a call on quite mild weather during November and I think it’s affected footfall,” said Mr Bason.
The chain is due to open a new shop in Belfast on Saturday after its old outlet was destroyed in a fire. – (Additional reporting: Reuters)