Belfast Telegraph

Shop staff form guard of honour as Primark founder’s hearse passes

Arthur Ryan died earlier in the week aged 83 after a short illness.

The funeral cortege for Penneys/Primark founder Arthur Ryan makes its way past the location of the first ever Penneys store, on Mary Street, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)
The funeral cortege for Penneys/Primark founder Arthur Ryan makes its way past the location of the first ever Penneys store, on Mary Street, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Shop staff formed a guard of honour for Primark founder Arthur Ryan as his funeral cortege passed the chain’s first store.

Mr Ryan, who died earlier in the week aged 83 after a short illness, opened the shop 50 years ago in Dublin, where it traded as Penneys.

Penneys staff lined Jervis Street in central Dublin as the hearse carrying Mr Ryan passed by.

They applauded in poignant tribute to a man hailed as a retail giant.

Penneys had to change its name to Primark for European stores outside Ireland because JC Penney owned the copyright to the name.

Half a century after its foundation, Primark now has 370 stores across 12 countries, employing 75,000 people.

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Penneys/Primark founder Arthur Ryan died aged 83 (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Ryan was chief executive until 2009, stepping into the chairman’s seat until his death, overseeing much of the expansion, including opening the first British Primark store in 1973.

The boss also helped cement Primark’s name on the UK high street, buying 120 former Littlewoods branches in 2005.

The tribute to Mr Ryan outside the Penneys store came ahead of his funeral at the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook in south Dublin.

George Weston, chief executive of Primark’s parent company, Associated British Foods, told mourners of that Mr Ryan did not fit any stereotype.

“Arthur was a brilliant, complicated, dedicated, powerful man. And I adored him,” he said.

“Arthur was fascinating and wonderful because he just didn’t fit the stereotypes. He was shy but could dominate the room; he was ruthless and caring; parsimonious and generous. He didn’t suffer fools but he helped those in need; he was master of the detail but also of the next ten years.

“He was a storyteller who knew the detail. He was a huge presence who gave talented people space in which to operate. He was demanding of people but loyal to them and they to him. He was a hard man but a big softie.

“He loved his country and I hope his country recognises how much he did for it. And he loved the business he built maybe in part to show the world what Irishmen and women are capable of.”

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A woman looks at a tribute in the shop window (Brian Lawless/PA)

In his tribute, Paul Marchant, chief executive of Primark, hailed Mr Ryan as a “retail pioneer”.

“He championed value fashion long before anyone else and he knew that customers loved a good deal, they loved a bargain and if something wasn’t selling he dealt with it quickly by aggressively marking it down,” he recalled.

“Arthur we are all going to miss your wisdom, your guidance and your support. We’re definitely going to miss your humour and your stories, even the factually correct ones, but most of all we’re all going to miss your genius and your friendship. We all owe you so much.

“The legend however will continue to live large.”

PA

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