There’s a lot more to success in the world of cut-price fashion than cheap clothing. The store environment needs to be up to scratch as well.

There’s a lot more to success in the world of cut-price fashion than cheap clothing. The store environment needs to be up to scratch as well.

Eyes were focussed on Paris’ Parinor (Paris Nord – geddit?) shopping centre last week as Primark opened its first store in the city. Parinor is in fact in one of those very unfavoured locations in north Paris where Maginot Line-like housing estates collide with massive roads and where, unless you like a very long walk, the only way of accessing the place is via car.

Primark has clearly opted to open here because it will find a ready audience for its wares (but then, where doesn’t it?) owing to the local demographic and because rents will be lower and suitable units more readily available than in the city centre. The Parinor shopping centre itself remains in need of a fair amount of help, both aesthetically and from the perspective of having a more credible shopping offer. It does include a very large Carrefour as part of its universe, but this looks tired, as does much of the rest of the centre.

What Primark will bring to the party, as well as cheap clothing, is store design and experience. The brand may be about shopping on a shoestring, but this does not mean that there is a lack of pizzazz about the store interiors – with large digital screens featuring fast-moving fashion content, outsize graphics and a liberal deployment of an ‘industrial’ ambiance. Parinor itself looks semi-industrial, but not in any kind of designed way, it is just an exercise in concrete brutalism.

Skip countries and head for the German capital and Primark’s set to open its second Berlin store in June, in the equally brutalist, albeit modish, surroundings of Alexanderplatz in former East Berlin. This store will take on cut-price clothing emporium C&A, which is just across the square. And if the recent experience of what has happened in Dusseldorf is anything to go by, shoppers will decamp from C&A to Primark, leaving the former licking its wounds.

Shoppers in fact go to Primark for rather more than clothing. For a few years now, the experience of shopping one of its major stores has been about a degree of in-store excitement that has been signally lacking in its rivals. All this shows is that there is more to discount fashion retailing than having a barrow-load of cheap clobber. Convincing today’s savvy shopper anywhere is a matter of providing the appropriate environment, as much as winsome low pricing.