Primark’s finance chief says it will win in the competitive US market because of its superior customer experience and “buzzy” stores.

  • Primark opens first US store this week
  • Boston shop is 77,000 sq ft and has four floors
  • Primark will open six US stores next year

The value fashion giant will open its first US store in Boston on Thursday, taking it head to head with stiff local competition including TK Maxx and Forever 21, as well as overseas brands such as Zara and H&M, which both have a strong presence in the country.

But John Bason, finance director of Primark owner Associated British Foods, told Retail Week he was confident the Irish retailer would win over US shoppers through a combination of “amazing” prices, good shop locations, fashionability and store experience.

“These first couple of years we’ll be learning what it is the American consumer wants”

John Bason, Associated British Foods

“In value clothing stores, often the shopping experience can be a disappointment,” said Bason. “But Primark has big modern stores, they’re bright and they’re buzzy. People like going into our stores.”

Bason said the Boston store, located in the famous Burnham building and covering 77,000 sq ft across four floors, will boast Primark’s latest fit out and will “make reference to Boston”. “This is an iconic building, a beautiful, old department store,” he said.

Prepared to make mistakes

Bason conceded that the US market is crowded and that Primark will “make mistakes” in its first few months and years. “There is wide availability in the US, we recognise that. We’re competing in a different marketplace,” he said. “These first couple of years we’ll be learning what it is the American consumer wants.”

Primark has reported huge success in Europe after expanding in countries including Germany and France – the latter was identified this morning by the retailer as its “most successful new market entry to date”.

“In the US, consumer awareness is much less. That’s the thing that’s got to build”

John Bason, Associated British Foods

But Bason admited that brand awareness in the US is much lower. “With social media and where Primark has been in the UK, on Oxford Street, the awareness of Primark is very high in Europe.

“When we open a store, there’s lots of excitement. It has become a destination store.

“In the US, consumer awareness is much less. That’s the thing that’s got to build.”

Second opening

Bason said Primark will “do no major advertising” to back its US launch. Instead, the retailer will rely on high footfall locations. The King of Prussia shopping centre near Philadelphia, where Primark will open its second US store before Christmas, is in the top five malls in the country in terms of footfall.

“We’ve done a lot of research on what are the best shopping centres,” said Bason.

Primark will open six more US stores next year, all in the northeast of the country. Stores will be supplied by a new warehouse in Pennsylvania.

Primark hopes to succeed where other retailers have failed. Tesco, Dixons and Marks & Spencer were all unsuccessful in their attempts to crack the US.