Online or offline: it’s not a binary choice – both need to be in place for retailers.

For many this will be the case, and the disintegration of the line that separates the physical from the virtual has been much discussed. But what about that elephant on the high street: Primark?

Last week, the discount leviathan unveiled a mixed bag of results, but overall things still looked pretty good, with the UK in particular holding up well.

It’s well known that it does so without a transactional website. While it is certainly possible to head online for styling hints from the retailer, ‘Primania’, or to locate the nearest branch, if you want to buy anything you must head for a store.

It is also the case that while there are Primarks in almost every major UK town and city, for a substantial number of people, visiting one will mean a journey.

“The question is, how does Primark manage to duck the online hurdle and have neither complaints nor compromised sales?”

Not only, therefore, is this a counterintuitive store that bucks the online/offline trend, but it is a destination, a place that a trip will be made to visit.

Indeed, for many shopping centre owners, the arrival of a Primark is a bit like having a Waitrose or, formerly, an M&S – it’s a guarantee of footfall.

The question is, how does Primark manage to duck the online hurdle and have neither complaints nor compromised sales?

Price might seem the obvious answer, the universal panacea that will get ’em in and get ’em buying – and to an extent, this is the case.

The only slight problem with this analysis is that others, from New Look to, possibly, Uniqlo, offer inexpensive garments that are available both in their stores and online.

Stores still rule

In truth, and being just back from the World Retail Congress in Madrid, where Primark has its ‘store of the future’ on the Gran Via, there is a genuine sense of in-store excitement.

It’s about more than grabbing a bargain. Primark’s newer stores offer environments that are appropriate to their location: large in-store city maps are the norm, big mood screens have regularly changing content and, in a few instances, there is a café.

“Once the thrill of the phone-scanned garment and cashierless store has become the norm, might we just hanker after stores that have people in them?”

Alibaba claims that the meaning of retail life is to digitise everything, and in some instances this may be the right thing to do.

Yet once the thrill of the phone-scanned garment and cashierless store has become the norm, might we just hanker after stores that have people in them?

Primark stands as an example of what is possible without a digital crutch. There are in-store digital elements, but at the moment it shows few signs of wanting to become transactional.

Given its results, who would argue?