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"Penneys" redirects here. For the American retailer, see J. C. Penney.
Primark Stores Ltd.
Native name
Industry Retail
Founded June 1969 in Dublin, Ireland
Founders Arthur Ryan
Headquarters Primark House, 41 West Street, Reading, Berkshire RG1 1TZ, United Kingdom [1]
Number of locations
302 stores (January 2016)[2]
Area served
Western Europe
United States
Products Clothing
Revenue £4,275m (FY 2012/2013)
£514m (FY 2012/2013)
Number of employees
Parent Associated British Foods

Primark (pronounced IPA /ˈprmɑːrk/ or IPA /ˈprmɑːrk/; the former pronunciation is prevalent in England, the latter in Scotland and Northern Ireland) is an Irish clothing retailer operating in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland (branded as Penneys in Ireland), Portugal, Spain, Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States and soon in Italy.[3][4] It was founded and headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. The company's international headquarters is registered in Ireland.[5] Its UK operations are registered in England and Wales.[6][7] Primark is a subsidiary of international food, ingredients and retail group Associated British Foods.


Primark was first opened by Arthur Ryan in June 1969 in Mary Street, Dublin under the name Penneys.[8] Further expansion and success in Ireland led to the move to the United Kingdom, and, in 1971, it opened a large store in Belfast City Centre before opening four out-of-town stores in England in 1973.[9] In October 2011, Primark opened its first concession model. Primark is now stocked in Selfridges department stores in Trafford Centre, Manchester, The Bull Ring, Birmingham and Oxford Street, London.[10]

Primark has corporate headquarters in Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom and international headquarters in a redeveloped building in Dublin, Ireland, Arthur Ryan House, opened in 2015.[11][1]


Primark offer a diverse range of products, stocking everything from new born and kids clothing, to womenswear, menswear, home ware, accessories, footwear, beauty products and confectionery. The company sells fashionable clothes at the low cost end of the market. Along with retailers such as Zara and H&M, Primark contributes to the contemporary fast fashion trend. According to an article about Primark in The Economist, "For many shoppers, Primark has an irresistible offer: trendy clothes at astonishingly low prices. The result is a new and even faster kind of fast fashion, which encourages consumers to buy heaps of items, discard them after a few wears and then come back for another batch of new outfits."[12]


Primark in the Former Lewis's Building in Manchester city centre.
World's second largest Primark in Madrid, Spain

Primark expanded rapidly in the UK in the mid-2000s. In 2005 they bought the Littlewoods chain for £409m,[13] retaining 40 of the 119 stores and selling the rest. They opened in the Meadowhall Centre in mid-2007.[14] In May 2006, the first Primark store outside Ireland and the UK opened in Madrid, Spain. In December 2008, Primark opened its first stores in the Netherlands, followed in 2009 by its first stores in Portugal, Germany and Belgium. Primark opened its first store in Austria on 27 September 2012 in Innsbruck, this was followed by another store in Vienna which opened in October 2012. The world's largest Primark store is located on Market Street, Manchester, England, occupying 155,000 sq ft (14,400 m2) of retail space across three floors.

Primark expanded to the United States in 2015 when it opened its first store in Downtown Crossing, Boston in the location that was once the flagship store of Filene's. The other American store is located at the King of Prussia Mall, the nation's second largest mall, near Philadelphia.

As of December 2015, Primark operates stores in the following countries:

Country Number of stores
United Kingdom United Kingdom 169
Spain Spain 40
Republic of Ireland Ireland 35
Germany Germany 19
Netherlands Netherlands 13
Portugal Portugal 8
France France 6
Austria Austria 4
Belgium Belgium 4
United States United States 2
Italy Italy opening 2016[citation needed]


Working practices[edit]

In 2006, Primark joined the Ethical Trading Initiative, a collaborative organisation bringing together businesses, trades unions and NGOs to work on labour rights issues in their supply chains.[15] ETI members commit to working towards the implementation of a code of conduct based on the International Labour Organisation's core conventions.

In December 2008, the UK charity War on Want launched a new report, Fashion Victims II, that showed conditions had not improved in Bangladeshi factories supplying Primark, two years after the charity first visited them.[16]

On 9 January 2009, a supplier was forced by ETI to remove its branding from Primark stores and websites following a BBC/The Observer investigation into the employment practices. The investigation alleged use of illegal immigrant labour and argued that the workers were paid less than the UK legal minimum wage.[17]

On 16 June 2011, the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) published its findings into a Panorama programme[18] 'Primark: On the Rack', broadcast in June 2008. The programme was an undercover investigative documentary examining poor working conditions in Indian factories supplying Primark. Although Primark subsequently stopped doing business with the Indian supplier, the ESC concluded that footage in the programme was 'more likely than not' to have been fabricated.[19] The ESC directed the BBC to make an on-air apology and to ensure that the programme was not repeated or sold to other broadcasters. Primark created a specific website to deal with the issues around the programme.[20]

In 2011 and 2012, Primark achieved ‘Leader’ status in the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).[21]

Building collapse at Savar[edit]

On 24 April 2013, the eight-story Rana Plaza commercial building collapsed in Savar, a sub-district near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. At least 1,127 people died and over 2,438 were injured.[22] The factory housed a number of separate garment factories employing around 5,000 people, several shops, and a bank,[23] and manufactured apparel for brands including the Benetton Group, Joe Fresh,[24] The Children's Place, Primark, Monsoon, and DressBarn.[25][26] Primark paid compensation and emergency aid to the victims of the collapse,[citation needed] a move which was welcomed by Oxfam,[27] and committed to review the structural integrity of buildings making its clothes.[28]

Of the 29 brands identified as having sourced products from the Rana Plaza factories, only 9 attended meetings held in November 2013 to agree a proposal on compensation to the victims. Several companies refused to sign, including Walmart, Carrefour, Bonmarché, Mango, Auchan and Kik. The agreement was signed by Primark, Loblaw, Bonmarche and El Corte Inglés.[29]

SOS Note[edit]

In June 2014, a customer from Ireland found an SOS note in the pocket of trousers she had bought from a Primark store in Belfast several years earlier.[30] The letter was written in Chinese and also contained a prison ID card. The letter alleged that the author was forced to work "like oxen" making fashion clothes for export for 15 hours per day, and the food they were given wouldn't be fit for dogs or pigs. A few days later, Primark claimed the label, and several others found in items in a store in Swansea, were a hoax.[31]

A year and a half later, yet another note was found in clothes from Primark.[32] Primark has not yet publicly stated whether they believe this to be part of the same hoax or part of a new hoax altogether.


  1. ^ a b "Snapshot: Primark Stores Limited", Bloomberg. Retrieved 11 February 2016
  2. ^ "Primark - About Us". Retrieved 4 January 2016. 
  3. ^ "Primark to open in the United States". 23 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Redazione. "Primark, shopping in Italia: le novità - Velvet Style Italia". Velvet Style Italia. 
  5. ^ "Primark Holdings". 
  6. ^ McCabe, Sarah (29 November 2013). "Expansion plans on course for Penneys international HQ in Dublin". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "About Us". Primark. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "Fashion swing is felt by Penneys' owners". 
  9. ^ "The rise and rise of Primark". AOL Money. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "Opposites attract: Primark to open its first concessions... in Selfridges". Mail Online. 
  11. ^ "Primark officially opens redeveloped Dublin HQ", RTE, Dublin, Ireland, Thursday 17 September 2015
  12. ^ "Faster, cheaper fashion". The Economist. 5 September 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  13. ^ Finch, Julia (8 August 2005). "M&S to cash in as Littlewoods disappears". The Guardian (London). 
  14. ^ Laura Chesters (29 August 2006). "Next and Primark to anchor Meadowhall". Property Week. 
  15. ^ Primark joins Ethical Trading Initiative - Press Release - ETI
  16. ^
  17. ^ McDougall, Dan (11 January 2009). "Primark in storm over conditions at UK supplier". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Revoir, Paul (17 June 2011). "Shamed BBC could lose prestigious TV award over ‘faked footage of child labour' in Primark Panorama expose". Daily Mail (London). 
  20. ^ "Primark Panorama - Primark's response to the BBC's apology". 
  21. ^ "Associated British Foods plc - Responsibility - Responsibility in action - Primark Ethical Trade Team". Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  22. ^ Ahmed, Saeed; Lakhani, Leone (14 June 2013), "Bangladesh building collapse: An end to recovery efforts, a promise of a new start", CNN, retrieved 16 December 2013 
  23. ^ Zain Al-Mahmood, Syed (24 April 2013). "Matalan supplier among manufacturers in Bangladesh building collapse". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  24. ^ Clare O'Connor (30 April 2013). "'Extreme Pricing' At What Cost? Retailer Joe Fresh Sends Reps To Bangladesh As Death Toll Rises". Forbes. 
  25. ^ Nelson, Dean (24 April 2013). "Bangladesh building collapse kills at least 82 in Dhaka". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  26. ^ Alam, Julhas (24 April 2013). "At least 87 dead in Bangladesh building collapse". USA Today. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  27. ^ "Oxfam response to Primark's statement on compensation for people affected by the Bangladesh Savar building collapse - Oxfam International". Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  28. ^ Factory Building Collapse in Bangladesh Kills 149 | Digital Wires from | News McGraw-Hill Construction
  29. ^ Ovi, Ibrahim Hossain (2013), Buyers' compensation for Rana Plaza victims far from reality, retrieved 16 December 2013 
  30. ^ "Primark investigates claim of 'cry for help' note in trousers". BBC News. 
  31. ^ "Primark claims 'cry for help labels' are a hoax carried out in the UK following investigation". The Independent. 
  32. ^ "Stunned Primark shopper finds disturbing note from 'Chinese torture victim' in sock". 

External links[edit]

Media related to Primark at Wikimedia Commons