Penneys goes for youthful and not-too-serious market

Primark to take on challenging US market at the end of next year, with the opening of a high-profile store in Boston

The launch of the Penneys autumn collection in Dublin yesterday shows a coat (€30), top (€14), skirt (€12), necklace (€5) and shoes (€15). Photograph: Eric Luke

Penneys previewed its autumn-winter fashions on the rooftop terrace of the Spencer Hotel yesterday (formerly the Clarion) in Dublin. Styled by Niamh O'Rourke, the line-up offered affordable takes on seasonal trends, with sporty American streetwear influences and chunky knits everywhere taking their cue from designers such as Marc by Marc Jacobs and Luella.

Predictably, there were shaggy fake fur jackets, gilets and cuddly coats in houndstooth, plaid or winter pastels like bubblegum pink, raspberry or yellow wool mixes. Easygoing cargo pants emphasised the roomier look.

Cute irridescent metallic knit tops, mini skirts and shiny green brocade trousers caught the autumn morning’s sunlight, the sparkle extending to accessories – chunky platformed sandals in glossy leather and bold brassy cuffs.

While shapes were generally top-heavy, the look was youthful, lighthearted and not too serious with a lot of gender-blending tartan shirts, parkas, varsity jackets along with retro classics from the 1960s and 1970s and a floppy black hat essential flourish.


If its autumn-winter collections have a buoyant optimistic shine, it's no surprise. The company, which now operates in nine European countries and employs some 57,000 people, takes on the challenging US market at the end of next year, with the opening of a high profile store in Boston and a further nine US outlets planned by 2016.

Targeting young customers who are “European” in their fashion outlook, it will be a real test of whether Primark’s fast fashion savvy can crack the notoriously difficult market, where British high street chains like Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have failed.

With sales about £5 billion in the year to September 13th, Primark’s growth is already predicted by retail analysts to overtake M&S, attributed to the low-cost retailer’s continued overseas expansion.

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan is Irish Times Fashion Editor, a freelance feature writer and an author