Hoover the floor, change the sheets, clean the windows. All of these activities come under the umbrella term “housekeeping” and are what most people do a little of from time to time. It’s also a word used in retailing to indicate that the floors have indeed been polished, the carpets swept and the displays are kept looking shipshape.

In the normal run of things it's the kind of thing that is part of the good operational running of a store and for the most part, goes unnoticed by the shopper. The trouble is, when it's not done, people tend to notice and it has been a consistent failing at Primark – until now.

A quick stroll around the Manchester store last week showed that even on a relatively busy day, Primark appeared to have cracked the problem that has been with it more or less since it started – sales floors that look utterly trashed from mid-morning onwards.

The reason for this has been pretty straightforward – stores that are understaffed combined with non-stop demand for the products on offer. This doesn't appear to have dampened enthusiasm for the stores, but it's not difficult to see that a little more attention to housekeeping might have resulted in a sales trajectory that would have been even more impressive than has been the case over the past few years.

The quibble appears to have been remedied in Manchester. The store was certainly busy, but in spite of repeated visits over the course of the day, at no point did things look out of control. The mid-shop merchandise displays were obviously being attended to and refilled on a pretty regular basis.

This must be bad news for other retailers. With sales up 18 per cent last week, an increasing number of stores being given facelifts and in-store standards now receiving the attention that is required, it's hard to see what will stand in Primark's way.

As a postscript, it's perhaps worth noting that the day of my visit was the same one on which the BBC's Panorama ran a programme in which it alleged a Mancunian Primark supplier has been employing illegal immigrants in sweatshop conditions. It may be a coincidence, but the 6.36am from Euston, the second train of the day to the North-West's capital had on board a very senior member of Primark's management. If only they had been as quick to raise in-store standards as they might appear to be in combating adverse publicity – the changes evident in the Manchester store might have been apparent rather more quickly.

Topics