Primark Built a Brooklyn Behemoth, But Will They Come?
Primark is going big in Brooklyn.
The Dublin-based retailer on Saturday unveiled its ninth U.S. unit, a 57,900-squarefoot store at Kings Plaza shopping center in Brooklyn, representing its latest thinking and most contemporary concept and boasting 56 fitting rooms and 42 cash wraps. An enormous LED screen on Kings Plaza’s exterior faces Flatbush Avenue.
Analysts have been bullish on Primark’s U.S. expansion — Barclays said Primark’s potential in the U.S. could be a gamechanger, pegging sales at $6 billion — if the retailer can translate its fast-fashion model successfully to American audiences. Primark is aware of the “if” and has not reached a foregone conclusion that the business is a slam-dunk. Chief executive officer George West has taken a cautious but optimistic view of results so far, adding that it’s still very early in Primark’s history as a retailer in the U.S.
Primark downsized and revamped two existing stores in Connecticut and New Jersey, and believes their performance has improved. The retailer is planning to open its first Florida store at Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, which would provide it with the opportunity to operate in a different part of the U.S. and a different retail environment — an outlet shopping center — from its existing stores.
The 1.1 million-square-foot Kings Plaza in 2012 was acquired by Macerich, which has been remodeling and re-merchandising the center with a new entrance and other upgrades, and tenants such as Michael Kors, Vince Camuto and Adidas, among others. Primark’s opening, originally set for May 16, was delayed by the renovations. There were activations nonetheless at mobile pop-up closets throughout Brooklyn, where stylist Jamie Frankel outfitted consumers and Taylor Ballantyne photographed them in Primark looks. The images could then be posted to Instagram and tagged #PrimarkUSA for a chance to be featured in a guerrilla art campaign.
“We completed our activations, the pop-up mobile closets throughout Brooklyn,” a spokeswoman said. “The delay was due to technical issues out of our control and affected other mall tenants.”
Primark’s draw is a variety of frequently refreshed women’s, men’s and children’s apparel, beauty, home products and gifts, as well as low prices. The retailer’s tag line is “Amazing Fashion at Amazing Prices.” Playsuits are $9.99; dresses start at $12; tops, $8, and jeans, $7. “In the U.S., customers love both our basics and our fashion,” the company told WWD. “Our women’s denim is one of the most popular categories. Customers also love the men’s formalwear and suiting offer.”
Associated British Foods, Primark’s parent, is being cautious about its expansion in the U.S., noting that the retailer needs to adapt units to the tastes and preferences of American shoppers. Posting metrics for the 40 weeks ending June 23, ABS said Primark sales grew 7 percent during the period.
Primark added about 400,000 square feet of new retail space in the third quarter, including opening seven stores in Munich; Metz, France; Antwerp; Valencia, Spain; Tilburg, the Netherlands; Burnley in Lancashire, and Westfield London shopping center in White City.
Fast-fashion has been beleaguered for some time, though the retailer says its business has improved.
The Dublin-based retailer opened its ninth store on Saturday.