Primark's rebuild could take up to four years, says boss Paul Marchant
Primark boss Paul Marchant has said it could be up to four years before the fashion retailer is ready to reopen its Bank Buildings store.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph just over a year after the devastating fire that rocked Belfast city centre, the chief executive said: "We are now going through the process of working very closely with Belfast City Council and the heritage department in Belfast to rebuild Bank Buildings to its former glory.
"We are probably three to four years away from being able to cut the ribbon on our Bank Buildings' door."
Despite the long-term nature of the project, Primark began trading in the city centre again in December, when it opened a new modern extension built behind the fire damaged store.
In April, the budget fashion retailer moved to secure its presence in Belfast by opening a second city centre store at Fountain House on Donegall Place, previously occupied by New Look.
“It was a really emotional time for all of us,” said Mr Marchant.
“It was devastating for us, devastating for our colleagues and devastating for the city of Belfast.
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“I think it made us realise we had a real obligation to get up and trading back in Belfast as quickly as we could.”
The Primark boss also heaped praise on the staff in Belfast.
“We want to just say that our store team in Belfast did the most amazing job in that in that shocking situation — we evacuated that store in two and a half minutes. I cannot speak highly enough of the way they responded.”
Meanwhile, the chief executive confirmed that Primark will introduce services such as cafes, nail bars and beauty studios in a significant number of new and existing stores.
The retailer has enjoyed huge success with its biggest ever store opening in Birmingham, which has a Disney cafe, Disney shops, a Harry Potter shop, a men’s barbers and full beauty studio.
Mr Marchant said: “I would think a significant number of our stores will be planned going forward with a beauty or food and beverage offer or maybe both,” he said. “We see it as a really important enhancement to our existing product offer.
“We have quite an aggressive expansion plan for our services.”
He said that beauty services such as nail bars and brow bars were a natural fit, given the company’s expansion into its own label make-up and beauty ranges.
The Dublin-based company which is known as Penneys in Ireland and as Primark internationally, is 50 years in business this year.
Mr Marchant also addressed concerns that fast fashion chains such as Primark fed into so-called disposable fashion. This trend has come under fire as an unsustainable attitude toward clothing.
“I think the phrase disposable fashion is a really bad one, that you can wear it once, you throw it away,” he said.
“We absolutely do not produce clothes that we want people to throw away, we want to produce clothes which genuinely have a longevity and can be worn over many, many, wears.
“We believe that just because we offer great value, it doesn’t make our products any more disposable than anybody else’s.”