Selfridges’ decision to allow Primark into some of its stores is a win win for both retailers.
Why would you put a value brand alongside a luxury retail format? An initial reaction must be that value shoppers will have little or nothing to do with the luxury retailer while for top-end shoppers it may be off-putting to see cheap stock alongside expensive label-led merchandise.
Yet news that elements of Primark’s menswear range are going into Selfridges’ Manchester Trafford and Birmingham branches shouldn’t really surprise. The fact is that the ‘Primarni’ phenomenon is pretty well documented and what is happening is no more than a natural step on for both retailers. Consider things this way. Primark may be the destination for the many, but so is Selfridges. The only difference is that the many who throng the department store’s floors may not buy with quite the same abandon as when in Primark. Value shoppers still aspire to buy items in Selfridges, so why not short circuit things and put the offers under one roof, in part at least?
Equally, those with elastic credit cards are far from being above shopping for value fashion if the look is there. The only real quibble is one of environment. How do you maintain the sense of luxury and occasion if you are going to allow an area within a department store to be fitted out with the ambiance that will be familiar to value shoppers?
The solution is, to a large degree, already apparent in Primark stores. The value retailer has made steps to avoid looking like a value retailer – look at its Bristol or Marble Arch stores. It’s just that the volume of shoppers on a daily basis can compromise housekeeping standards. The trick therefore is to take the best of what is done in Primark currently and to make sure that this is what is on show in Selfridges.
And for Selfridges, the prize must be to welcome a customer who might not have felt entirely at home in a luxury interior. Primark basks in further fashion glory while Selfridges enjoys incremental turnover and a knowing sense that it has the popular touch.
The fact that the two stores chosen are more family oriented may make this a more straightforward proposition and it shows that Selfridges has considered this move carefully. Given the price of retail space on Oxford Street, it is still a little hard to see something of the kind happening in central London…but then who would have predicted any of this?