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Primark welcomes ‘encouraging’ trade after sales slump

Primark sales plunged by 75% to £582m in its third quarter of trading, while its year-to-date sales fell by 27% to £4.3bn. 

Its parent company, Associated British Foods (ABF), now estimates that its adjusted operating profit will fall between £300m and 350m for the full year, compared to the £913m reported for the last financial year.

It comes after all 375 Primark stores across the world closed on 22 March, resulting in a sales loss of £650m per month. 

During its estate-wide closure, the group reduced its operating expenses by over 50%, limiting its cash outflow to £100m per month while stores remained closed. 

However, ABF said that stores have “reopened more quickly than expected” as lockdowns around the world eased. The group reopened 179 Primark stores on 15 June, representing nearly half of its estate, including a new store in the Trafford Centre.

Since the reopening of its first stores on 4 May, cumulative sales for the seven-week period ended 20 June were £322m, 12% lower than the year prior on a like-for-like basis. 

Sales in the week ended 20 June, with over 90% of its selling space reopened, were £133m, while trading in England and Ireland was reportedly “ahead” of the same week last year. 

As of today (2 July), 367 Primark stores have reopened, with the remaining eight expected to follow in the near future.

According to ABF, trading in reopened stores has overall been “reassuring and encouraging”. 

It added that most regional stores were “performing well”, though stores in the centre of big cities were suffering from the current absence of tourism and lower commuter footfall.  

After the cash outflow in the third quarter, ABF now expects the group to return to cash generation in its final quarter of trading. With Primark stores reopened, its current expectation is that the year end net cash balance, before lease liabilities, will be in excess of £750m.

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