Primark has been permitted to reopen its stores in Austria and the Netherlands, giving the bricks-and-mortar retailer a boost. The reopened stores have also demonstrated what customer behaviours might be when the UK restrictions are lifted.

The value fashion chain, owned by Associated British Foods (ABF), resumed trading in its five Austrian stores at the start of last week, followed by its 20-strong estate in the Netherlands.

Reopening stores has been a big test and a lifeline for Primark, which does not trade online and has had no revenue since all 375 of its shops were closed by the middle of March. 

ABF finance director John Bason told the Financial Times that since reopening, footfall has been lower and spread evenly throughout the week but basket sizes have increased – with sales highest in ranges such as nightwear, health and beauty, and childrenswear.

The number of customers allowed in stores is determined by its floor area: in Austria, the current ratio is one person for every 10 sq m. 

Primark has hired extra security personnel, closed every second checkout and fitted plexiglass screens to those that are in use.

The fitting rooms are also closed and only one person is allowed in the lift at a time.

Primark is expected to reopen stores in Italy and Belgium this week and store managers in the UK have been returning to shops in an effort to prepare them for eventual reopenings with social distancing measures in place.

The news gives further optimism for the post-coronavirus future of UK retail after it was reported that Superdry’s reopened European stores have experienced good levels of footfall.