How sustainable is Primark’s new online store?

If you’re a style obsessive that operates on a tight budget, you already know about the power of Primark. Since its conception as Penney’s in 1969, Primark has established itself as a global leader in the fast fashion market.  Excitingly, this year will see Primark operating in the digital sphere for the very first time. ... Read more

If you’re a style obsessive that operates on a tight budget, you already know about the power of Primark. Since its conception as Penney’s in 1969, Primark has established itself as a global leader in the fast fashion market. 

Excitingly, this year will see Primark operating in the digital sphere for the very first time. Two-piece sets, we’re coming for you.

Primark Click and Collect

Earlier this month, Primark announced it would be rolling out a click-and-collect trail service in the UK. This pilot acts as Primark’s first step away from being a sole brick and mortar establishment. Hello, self-care Sunday shopping moments. 

However, with no plans to introduce home delivery, how will this establish Primark in the booming e-commerce fast fashion market? Moreover, will a click-and-collect service positively impact Primark’s sustainability pledge? 

Fashion e-commerce

Up until 2022, Primark has always refused to sell its budget fashion, accessories and lifestyle products online. “Primark would be starting from scratch,” says Patrick O’Brien, UK retail research director at GlobalData to the BBC. “[they] would have to integrate any new online operation with its existing store structure which would be costly.” 

This sentiment was echoed by John Bason. The finance chief at Primark owner, Associated British Foods told Retail Week, “If you go online, or even click-and-collect, you’re going to be adding costs.”

In early 2020 however, over 150+ stores were forced to close their doors. Following the store closures, Primark has since seen plummeting profits. According to the Retail Gazette, the fast-fashion giants’ profit actually fell by an astonishing 60% during the pandemic

“Without a transactional site, Primark is at risk of losing market share to other value players that operate strongly online, such as boohoo and Shein,” says GlobalData apparel associate analyst, Louise Deglise-Favre.

Therefore, seemingly to avoid another profit disaster and compete with other fast fashion giants, Primark has gone back on its pledge. Introducing the click-and-collect trial.

Primark online store

Primark CEO, Paul Marchant, told Drapers that their first foray into a digital retail space is actually two years into the making. 

“We needed to be sure that we had the foundations in place from a tech stack perspective. We’ve spent a lot of money, and spent a lot of time getting our basic foundations in place.”

“We needed some of those foundations in place for us to be able to move onto a number of new initiatives, including this one”, says Marchant.

Primark will therefore open up its first e-commerce store in late 2022. The trial of the digital space has been limited to children’s fashion, accessories and lifestyle pieces. The trial will operate across 25 stores in northwest England.

“The cluster of stores [in the northwest] gives us a really healthy, balanced representation of store types and sizes”, says Marchant. “We started with kids because it’s a category where we have real strength. It’s our second biggest category after womenswear and it’s also the one that we believe has got huge potential,”. 

Outside of a Primark store. The fast fashion retailer is set to launch a click and collect service within the next year on childrens clothes and accessories.
Image Credit: Paul Siewert (via Unsplash)

Click and Collect Trial Focus

The focus of the trial is to boost profits, increase footfall in physical stores, and finally establish Primark in the fast fashion e-commerce market. According to Just Style, footfall is already starting to pick back up, but the plan is to increase this tenfold. 

“We also believe when customers come in to collect their orders, they’ll find other amazing products in the Primark stores that they will want to buy,” says Marchant. 

It seems like the fashion retailer is potentially onto a winning combination. By bringing people into their stores through click and collect, they’re avoiding relying totally on online sales. Thus, Primark is avoiding the fates of Topshop and Debenhams. By offering click-and-collect, Primark are simultaneously rivalling online-only fast fashion giant boohoo and hybrid store, H&M, with an e-commerce offering.

In 2021, H&M actually saw a 50% increase in online sales but lost money overall on their store sales. This statistic proves that a hybrid e-commerce offering that focuses on bringing footfall into physical high street stores is sure to be a success.

So, it seems like Primark’s digital trial is a smart move. However, will it affect their sustainability pledge?

Primark Sustainability Pledge 

According to Keep Britain Tidy, fast fashion adds up to 10,000 items of clothing to landfills every five minutes. Alongside H&M Group and Boohoo PLC, Primark is of course one of the main players in the fast fashion game.

By driving footfall to the store through click and collect, customers are more likely to be exposed to the Primark ‘How Change Looks’ campaign. 

According to the sustainability pledge, the campaign “will make it easier for customers to make changes themselves. With initiatives ranging from expanding the number of recycling bins in stores to collecting and recycling clothing at the end of its life. To educate consumers on techniques to lengthen the lifespan of their wardrobe – from sewing skills to guidance on washing practices.”

If Primark was to operate a home delivery service, it would be more difficult to expose customers to these in-store initiatives. Therefore, with click and collect bringing customers into Primark stores, clothes are more likely to be recycled and thus lowering Primark’s carbon footprint.

Regarding carbon footprint, the sustainability pledge states that Primark “will halve carbon emissions across our value chain by 2030”. By recycling, reducing carbon footprint and “strengthening the durability” of clothes, Primark is taking steps to become a more sustainable company.

Sustainable Fashion

In conclusion, by “focusing on click and collection, not home delivery,” Primark can turn their attention to efforts like improving sustainability and exposing more customers to their efforts.

With an almost guarantee to expose customers to become more sustainable, it looks like this Primark pilot could be a success. Only time will tell whether the click-and-collect service has a positive impact. Watch this space.

So, will you be using the click-and-collect service when it rolls out to your city? Keep your eyes peeled on 99 Problems for more fashion updates and sustainability content.


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Feature image credit: Jakob Pfalz/Katsiaryna Endrukiewicz (via Unsplash)