Primark sales dip hits owner’s shares

Sales at Dublin-headquartered discount clothing retailer Primark fell in November, due to unseasonably warm weather.

News of the “challenging” November for Primark, which trades in Ireland as Penneys, sent the share price of parent company Associated British Foods (ABF) falling by as much as 5%.

ABF didn’t put a percentage figure on Primark’s November sales fall, but said performance was “negative”, albeit only a “blip” which shouldn’t hinder Primark’s full-year profit performance.

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. It’s a blip that, from a profit perspective, we can manage,” said ABF finance director John Bason.

He said that with careful inventory management and improved margins, the group’s expectation for an increase in Primark’s full-year profit was unchanged.

“Primark’s selling space expansion will continue and we expect an increase in retail profit for the year,” ABF chairman Michael McLintock told shareholders at the group’s AGM.

Primark, which accounts for about half of ABF’s revenue and profit, trades from 363 stores in Europe and North America.

That store number increases, this weekend, to 364 with Primark’s reopening in central Belfast, following the August fire which destroyed its store at the Bank Buildings.

Last month Primark, via ABF, reported revenue growth for the 12 months to mid-September of 6% to just under £7.5bn (€8.6bn), while its annual operating profits jumped 15% to £843m. The business was one of the main drivers of annual growth for ABF.

The retailer is set to look at expanding into eastern Europe, with first stores planned for Poland and Slovenia.

More expansion is also planned on the east coast of the US, where it already has nine stores and two more planned in the next two years.

- Additional reporting Reuters

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