Pri­mark hails ‘re­as­sur­ing’ sales since re­open­ing

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Laura Onita and Si­mon Foy

TRAD­ING at Pri­mark stores has been “re­as­sur­ing and en­cour­ag­ing” since they were al­lowed to re­open, bosses have said – spark­ing hopes of a swift high street re­cov­ery.

Sales were just 12pc lower in the seven weeks to June 20 than they had been a year ear­lier, bring­ing in £322m.

In the week ended June 20, Pri­mark posted sales of £133m – with trad­ing in Eng­land and Ire­land ahead of the same week last year. Un­like most ri­vals it does not sell on­line, mean­ing rev­enues ground to a to­tal halt dur­ing lock­down.

Sales plum­meted 75pc in the third quar­ter end­ing June 20, and it ex­pects profit to slump by two thirds this year to £350m. How­ever, the ma­jor­ity of shops are trad­ing again – ear­lier than ex­pected – with all 153 stores open in Eng­land.

De­spite a rapid pick-up, Pri­mark’s par­ent firm As­so­ci­ated Bri­tish Foods warned that city cen­tre out­lets are lag­ging be­hind re­gional stores as shop­pers stay close to home.

It said: “Most of our re­gional stores are per­form­ing well, es­pe­cially in re­tail parks. Our stores in the cen­tre of big cities are suf­fer­ing from the cur­rent ab­sence of tourism and much lower com­muter foot­fall.”

The com­pany does not in­tend to take part in the Black Fri­day bar­gain sales bo­nanza, de­spite hav­ing lost £1.5bn in sales in lock­down. John Ba­son, fi­nance chief, said it did not dis­count be­fore the cri­sis hit and will not change tack. The chain can­not af­ford to dis­count its al­ready cheap prod­ucts be­cause it dents its profit mar­gins, he said. It re­fuses to sell on­line for the same rea­son.

Mr Ba­son said: “Have we lost sales? Yes. Have we lost out [by not sell­ing on­line]? Home de­liv­ery for £1, £2, £3 prod­ucts, we can’t do it at a profit – no­body can.

“That’s the point. We are sell­ing es­sen­tials at the best prices. Have we changed our views? No.”

AB Foods shares closed up 4.1pc at £20.46.

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