High street fashion retailer Primark has outlined its plans to reopen stores in England after the roadmap for the lockdown lift was released.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said easing coronavirus restrictions in England would begin March 8.
Until the end of June, they will train more every five weeks – if the coronavirus level remains low and continues to fall.
This means that non-essential retailers, including clothing stores, can open in the second phase of the lockdown plan.
Mr Johnson said it won’t come until April 12th at the earliest.
A Primark spokesperson said: “Primark welcomes the news that we have a tentative opening date for our stores in England on April 12th.
“We know our customers will be delighted and we can’t wait to welcome them back to our stores.
“Our priority will be to do this safely and to build on all the lessons we have learned in our European operations over the past year.”
Last month, Primark owner Associated British Foods warned of more than £ 1 billion in retail loss loss if the coronavirus lockdown forced stores to remain closed until late February.
The budget fashion chain announced that 305 of its 389 stores around the world are currently closed, which is expected to cost £ 1.05 billion in lost sales – up from the hit forecast of £ 650 million in late December.
AB Foods – with 190 stores in the UK – now expects the underlying half year results to be wiped out. The group forecasts a breakeven point of £ 441m last year.
However, it could impact £ 1.85 billion in sales if the entire store had to close and stay closed until the end of March, taking a further £ 300 million off profits.
Primark has already seen £ 540 million in retail losses in its most important Christmas quarter due to store closures due to coronavirus restrictions. In the 16 weeks ending January 2, sales were down 30%.
The group saw trading severely impacted with the November lockdown in England and restrictions across Europe with no access to online business.
Current store closings account for around 76% of retail space.
The group said it managed to offset some of the trade impact by reducing overhead costs by 25% due to store closures.
AB Foods said at the time, “The impact of store closures on Primark’s performance is significant.
“We now expect full year revenues and adjusted operating income for Primark to be slightly lower than last year.”
The group stated that trade was strong during the store’s opening and like-for-like sales declines were 14% over the 16 weeks.
Shops in retail parks that were accessible by car were closed a year earlier, but the locations of main streets and shopping malls were badly affected by the pandemic.
Despite the suffering, the company opened another five stores in its festive quarter and promised to continue expanding the retail space. A further 15 new locations in Great Britain, Europe and the USA are planned for the coming year.
Finance director John Bason told PA News Agency the group will not turn its back on Main Street despite moving away from downtown shopping amid the pandemic.
He said, “There will probably be more home work, but a lot of people will want to work in the office again, tourism will come back … but it will take time.
“When we’re through all of this, people will want to go on vacation, have a party, and shop at Primark.”
The group has so far avoided major downsizing during the crisis and Mr Bason said there are no plans for large-scale layoffs.
Better-than-expected trading elsewhere in the group will help offset the retailer’s difficulties. Sales growth in 16 weeks was 7% for the grocery store, 6% for the sugar lean, 10% for the agricultural sector and 3% for the ingredients division.
Group sales fell by a total of 13% in the reporting period.