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Native name
Founded13 June 1969; 52 years ago (1969-06-13) in Dublin, Ireland
FounderArthur Ryan
22-24 Parnell Street Dublin 1, D01 P7W2
Number of locations
392 (2020)
Area served
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Czech republic
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Slovenia
  • The Netherlands
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Key people
Paul Marchant (CEO and COO)
RevenueIncrease £7.79 billion[1] (2019)
Number of employees
Increase 78,000 (2019)
ParentAssociated British Foods
Footnotes / references

Primark (/ˈprˌmɑːrk/; named Penneys in the Republic of Ireland),[6] a subsidiary of the British food processing and retail company Associated British Foods, is a fast fashion retailer with headquarters in Dublin, Ireland.[7] The Penneys brand is not used outside of Ireland because it is owned elsewhere by American retailer J. C. Penney. The company has operations in Europe and the United States.


The company's first store, still in operation, was founded by Arthur Ryan on behalf of the Weston family (who had founded Associated British Foods in 1935) in June 1969 on 47 Mary Street, Dublin.[3][8]

Success in the Republic of Ireland led to expansion into Northern Ireland, with Penneys opening a large store in Belfast City Centre in 1971. The company subsequently expanded outside of Ireland with a Primark store in Derby, England, in 1973.[9] The company could not use the name "Penneys" in Europe outside Ireland as it was registered by J. C. Penney.[10] The name "Primark" was then invented to use outside Ireland.[3]

Primark opened its current headquarters in 2015 in[11] a redeveloped Dublin building, Arthur Ryan House, formerly Chapel House.[5][12][13][2]


Primark offers a diverse range of products, including baby and children's clothing, womenswear, menswear, homeware, accessories, footwear, beauty products and confectionery. The chain sells clothes at prices below those typically charged.

From 2014, Primark began selling makeup products.[14] Primark started selling vegan snacks from January 2018.[15] Laura O' Sullivan, co-founder of Primark, expressed her support of the new snacks.[15]

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."[16]

In 2020 Primark launched their Wellness collection which includes 80 eco-conscious products.[17] All of the products are made of organic, sustainable or recycled materials. This is part of the retailer's commitment to be more responsible for its footprint.[18]


Primark stores by country in 2020[19]
Country Number
of stores
Floor area
 United Kingdom 190 7,534,000 sq ft (699,900 m2)
 Spain 48 1,988,000 sq ft (184,700 m2)
 Germany 32 1,841,000 sq ft (171,000 m2)
 Ireland 36 1,076,000 sq ft (100,000 m2)
 France 19 996,000 sq ft (92,500 m2)
 Netherlands 20 971,000 sq ft (90,200 m2)
 United States 9 470,000 sq ft (44,000 m2)
 Belgium 8 403,000 sq ft (37,400 m2)
 Portugal 10 383,000 sq ft (35,600 m2)
 Austria 5 242,000 sq ft (22,500 m2)
 Italy 5 257,000 sq ft (23,900 m2)
 Slovenia 1 46,000 sq ft (4,300 m2)
 Poland 1 40,000 sq ft (3,700 m2)
Totals 384 16,247,000 sq ft (1,509,400 m2)

As of 2020, Primark owned 384 stores in 13 countries.[19]

The company's first store, still in operation, was opened in June 1969 on 47 Mary Street, Dublin under the Penneys brand, which continues to be the company's trading name in the Republic of Ireland.[3][8] Penneys opened its first store in Northern Ireland in 1971, with a large store in Belfast City Centre. The company opened its first store outside of the island of Ireland in Derby, England, in 1973, under the new Primark brand.[9] The company expanded rapidly in the UK in the mid-2000s. In 2005, it bought the Littlewoods retail stores for £409m, retaining 40 of the 119 stores and selling the rest.[20]

In May 2006, the first Primark store in mainland Europe opened in Madrid, Spain. In December 2008, Primark opened in the Netherlands, followed by Portugal, Germany and Belgium in 2009. Primark opened its first store in Austria on 27 September 2012, in Innsbruck. It expanded to France in 2013, in Marseille.[21] The first Italian store opened in 2014.[22]

In 2015, Primark opened its first United States store in Downtown Crossing, Boston, in the location that was once the flagship store of Filene's,[23] later New York City, Philadelphia, and Danbury.[24]

After 10 years of constructing a chain of around 40 stores in Spain, Primark opened another store in Madrid in October 2015, the second biggest in the chain.[25] In July 2018, it was announced that Primark would open a store in Poland.[26] The largest Primark store opened in Birmingham on 11 April 2019, occupying the former Pavilions Shopping Centre of 161,000 sq ft (15,000 m2). On 13 June 2019 Primark expanded to Slovenia with a store in Ljubljana. It has signed a lease for its first stores in Warsaw, Poland, Prague, the Czech Republic, and Bratislava, Slovakia.

In July 2019, Primark announced its U.S. market expansion to Chicago with a three-level 36,000 sq ft (3,300 m2) flagship location on State Street.[27] The location opened in March 2021 and was its first store in Illinois.[28]

On 23 March 2020, the company announced that they would be closing their 189 UK stores until further notice, as a result of government lockdown during the COVID-19 outbreak.[29] The chain's 153 stores in England re-opened on 15 June 2020.[30] As a result of the lockdown. the company reported a sales loss of £430 million.[31]

In December 2020, Primark said it will lose an additional £220m in sales as more stores are forced to close under new restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 in the UK.[32] In January 2021, this figure was raised to over £1billion.[33]

In June 2021, Primark opened the first store in the Czech Republic in Prague. Occupying the area of 50,590 sq ft (4,700 m2) in the Flow Building on the Wenceslas Square, this store also serves as a flagship store for the region of Central and Eastern Europe. This is also the only store in the region located on a high street instead of a shopping centre.[34]


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.[35] ETI members commit to working towards the implementation of a code of conduct based on the International Labour Organization'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.[36]

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 the use of illegal immigrant labour and argued that the workers were paid less than the UK legal minimum wage.[37]

On 16 June 2011, the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) published its findings into a Panorama programme[38] '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.[39] 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.[40]

In 2011 and 2012, Primark achieved 'Leader' status in the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).[41]

Dhaka garment factory collapse[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.[42] The factory housed a number of separate garment factories employing around 5,000 people, several shops, and a bank.[43] The day before the building collapsed, other businesses had closed but garment factory owners pressurized employees to report for work.[44] Clothing labels from Mango and Primark were found amongst the dead.[44] Apparel for other brands were also manufactured at the site including the Benetton Group, Joe Fresh,[45] The Children's Place, Monsoon, and DressBarn[46][47] Primark paid compensation and emergency aid of $200 each to the victims of the collapse,[9] a move which was welcomed by Oxfam,[48] and committed to review the structural integrity of buildings making its clothes.[49]

Of the 29 brands identified as having sourced products from the Rana Plaza factories, only nine attended meetings held in November 2013 to agree a proposal on compensation to the victims. Several companies refused to sign, including Walmart, Carrefour, Mango, Auchan and Kik. The agreement was signed by Primark, Loblaw, Bonmarché and El Corte Inglés.[50][51]

Alleged SOS messages[edit]

In June 2013, two labels both stitched with alleged SOS messages were separately found in garments purchased from a store in Swansea, Wales. Primark argued the supply chain showed these label messages were a hoax.[52]

Also in June 2014, a customer from Ireland allegedly found an SOS note wrapped in a prison ID card in the pocket of trousers purchased from a Primark store several years earlier.[53] The letter was written in Chinese and said to report that prisoners were forced to work "like oxen" making fashion clothes for export for 15 hours per day and that the food they were given would not be fit for animals.[54]

A year and a half later an alleged SOS note from a Chinese torture victim was found in socks purchased from Primark.[55]

In December 2018, a bone was found by a customer in a sock purchased in the shop's Colchester branch.[56]



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  3. ^ a b c d A household Irish name built from humble beginnings: The Penneys story, 1 March 2015; Retrieved 14 April 2016
  4. ^ "Annual Report and Accounts 2019" (PDF). Associated British Foods. 2019. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Snapshot: Primark Stores Limited", Bloomberg; Retrieved 11 February 2016
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  12. ^ "Primark officially opens redeveloped Dublin HQ", RTÉ News, 17 September 2015
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  15. ^ a b Maria Chiorando (29 January 2018). "Budget Chain Primark Starts Selling Vegan Snack Range". Plant Based News. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  16. ^ "Faster, cheaper fashion". The Economist. 5 September 2015.
  17. ^ "Primark's new Wellness collection has landed and prices start from just £2".
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  19. ^ a b "Annual Report and Accounts 2020" (PDF). Associated British Foods. 2020. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  20. ^ Finch, Julia (8 August 2005). "M&S to cash in as Littlewoods disappears". The Guardian.
  21. ^ Graham Ruddick (16 December 2013). "Primark targets chic French shoppers as it opens in Marseille". The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
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  28. ^ Rozario, Kevin (16 March 2021). "After Chicago State Street Opening, Primark Says It Is 'Just Getting Going'". Forbes.
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  30. ^ "Primania returns: why is the UK so obsessed with shopping at Primark?". The Telegraph. 15 June 2020. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  31. ^ Patricia Nilsson (4 December 2020). "Lockdowns wipe £430m off Primark sales". Financial Times. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  32. ^ "Primark says tier 4 extension will knock further £220m off sales". The Guardian. 31 December 2020. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  33. ^ "Primark refuses to go online despite £1bn lockdown loss". BBC News. 14 January 2021. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  34. ^ "Nine new brands have entered the Czech market in H1 2021". Cushman & Wakefield. 19 June 2021. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  35. ^ "Primark joins Ethical Trading Initiative ETI". Ethical Trading Initiative. 26 May 2006. Archived from the original on 8 October 2007.
  36. ^ "Fashion Victims II". War on Want. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  37. ^ McDougall, Dan (11 January 2009). "Primark in storm over conditions at UK supplier". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  38. ^ "BBC Trust". Archived from the original on 19 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  39. ^ Burrell, Ian; Hickman, Martin (16 June 2011). "BBC crisis over 'fake' sweatshop scene in Primark documentary". The Independent.
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  41. ^ "Responsibility - Responsibility in action - Primark Ethical Trade Team". Associated British Foods. Archived from the original on 2 May 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  42. ^ 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
  43. ^ Zain Al-Mahmood, Syed (24 April 2013). "Matalan supplier among manufacturers in Bangladesh building collapse". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  44. ^ a b Manik, Julfikar Ali; Yardley, Jim (24 April 2013). "Building Collapse in Bangladesh Leaves Scores Dead". The New York Times.
  45. ^ Clare O'Connor (30 April 2013). "'Extreme Pricing' At What Cost? Retailer Joe Fresh Sends Reps To Bangladesh As Death Toll Rises". Forbes.
  46. ^ Nelson, Dean (24 April 2013). "Bangladesh building collapse kills at least 82 in Dhaka". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  47. ^ Alam, Julhas (24 April 2013). "At least 87 dead in Bangladesh building collapse". USA Today. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  48. ^ "Oxfam response to Primark's statement on compensation for people affected by the Bangladesh Savar building collapse". Oxfam International. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  49. ^ Sarah Butler (22 June 2013). "Bangladeshi factory deaths spark action among high-street clothing chains". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  50. ^ Ovi, Ibrahim Hossain (2013), Buyers' compensation for Rana Plaza victims far from reality, archived from the original on 25 March 2016, retrieved 16 December 2013
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  53. ^ "Primark investigates claim of 'cry for help' note in trousers". BBC News. 25 June 2014.
  54. ^ "'Cry for help' from prisoner in Chinese forced labour jail alleged to have been found inside Primark trousers". Amnesty International UK. 24 June 2014. Archived from the original on 9 July 2016.
  55. ^ Cherrington, Rosy (21 December 2015). "Man Finds Letter Claiming To Be From Chinese Torture Victim In Primark Socks". HuffPost. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  56. ^ "Primark customer finds 'human bone' in sock". BBC News Online. 25 January 2019.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Primark at Wikimedia Commons