Primark chief executive Paul Marchant has said the fashion giant’s belief and passion in bricks-and-mortar retail “lie at the heart” of its strategy and success.

Paul Marchant

Source: Gomes Photography

Speaking at LIVE 2024, Marchant said Primark has “big plans” moving forward, particularly with ongoing investment into the UK high street.

He said: “We really believe in [bricks and mortar], we always have, we still do and that won’t change. Having said that, you go to some high streets and realise there is a desperate need for investment.

“You have to be sure with any investment you make in your business that you can get a return on that.

“Making money online is not easy and with home delivery, particularly in a business like ours that has low average selling price and low margins, it is very difficult and probably impossible to make money on a traditional home delivery model.

“We scratched our heads for many years to figure out how we deal with the growth of digital. We are really aware of how particularly the younger consumers want to access brands not through bricks and mortar first. For us, click and collect has been great because it has played into our bricks-and-mortar strategy, rather than taking away from it.”

When asked about further international opportunities and dangers when it comes to diluting the brand, Marchant said trust is at the core of its expansion strategy.

He said: “It’s about going local and trusting our teams on the ground who are more than capable and know their customers better than anyone. You have to have a degree of healthy paranoia with that.

“I look at the broader opportunities into additional continents, where our competitors are successfully trading, and think why wouldn’t Primark be a proposition that would appeal to consumers in, hypothetically, the likes of South East Asia, the Middle East or India.

“It’s a big world out there and I think Primark is a brand that’s very transferrable and that’s exciting for us.”

Speaking about the challenges within the fashion industry when it comes to sustainability, Marchant said Primark is “mindful” of the role it plays as a large-volume retailer and that it needs support to continue its sustainability efforts.

“I find the lack of acknowledgment of what retail does as an industry hard to swallow,” he continued. “We’ve got nearly 80,000 colleagues, well in excess of 30,000 that work in the UK. That job creation, that tax generation, that community building piece, I don’t think retail gets the recognition it deserves.

“It seems like an easy sector to pick on and I’m really proud to work in this industry. I see the impact we have by the decisions we make and sustainability is the same. We need to get behind sustainability as an industry and we need the support to deliver our objectives. This is an amazing industry employing amazing people and we should be celebrating that.”