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Primark plans 'late June' reopening of Northern Ireland stores


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Primark in Belfast's Castle Street.

Primark in Belfast's Castle Street.

Primark in Belfast's Castle Street.

Primark owner Associated British Foods (ABF) has earmarked a "late June" reopening of its stores in Northern Ireland.

The retailer said it is working to reopen all its 153 stores in England on June 15, after the UK Government gave non-essential retailers the go-ahead to welcome customers again.

It said that it expects to have reopened 281 of its stores by that date, having already reopened 112 of its sites across mainland Europe.

The retailer said it is awaiting further guidance from the devolved administrations regarding stores in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales but anticipates openings in “late June”.

The Northern Ireland Executive has placed non-food retail in step two of its five stage route out of lockdown. However, there is no date for that to be implement and as has been seen in stage one, not all elements are implemented at one time.

Primark has nine stores across Northern Ireland at Ballymena, two in Belfast, Derry, Lisburn, Lisnagelvin, Newry, Newtownabbey and Newtownards.

The company's flagship Belfast store in Bank Buildings was devastated in a fire in August 2018 which forced its closure and many surrounding businesses.

While work in the Bank Buildings is ongoing, an extension has been opened as well as a second store.

The fire was estimated to cost the company and Belfast city centre businesses nearly £100m.

ABF shut all its Primark stores in March in the face of coronavirus, which it said resulted in a loss of around £650 million for every month that all stores were closed.

It said that it cut more than 50% off overheads at Primark in a bid to stabilise its finances during the pandemic.

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A Primark store in Nottingham after the company shut its doors in the face of the pandemic (Tim Goode/PA)

A Primark store in Nottingham after the company shut its doors in the face of the pandemic (Tim Goode/PA)

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A Primark store in Nottingham after the company shut its doors in the face of the pandemic (Tim Goode/PA)

In a statement, the company said: “As European governments have begun to ease restrictions on clothing retailing we have been able to reopen stores.

“Safety has been our highest priority in our detailed preparations to welcome our customers and employees back to stores. We are following government safety advice in all markets.

“Importantly, we will apply the valuable experience gained from more than 100 stores which are already open as we open the remainder of our estate, including stores across the UK.

“Social distancing protocols, hand sanitiser stations, perspex screens at tills and additional cleaning of high frequency touch points in the store are among the measures we are implementing.”

The retailer said trading has been “reassuring and encouraging” in its recently reopened stores, with queues outside most sites.

Nevertheless, it said cumulative like-for-like sales since reopening have been lower than the same period last year.

The firm added that “as long as social distancing is required, we expect it to restrict the capacity of our busiest stores from achieving their aggregate pre-Covid-19 sales”.

Meanwhile, ABF said operating profits in its grocery business will be ahead of forecasts after “stronger sales” of branded products, although profits in its sugar arm are predicted to slip.

Belfast Telegraph