Lack of online offering costs Primark £1.6bn in lost lockdown sales

The owner of Primark said yesterday that the latest lockdown would cost the chain £1.6 billion in lost sales, but it struck an optimistic note about prospects when shops reopen.

Associated British Foods, owner of the fast-fashion retailer, said that it had lost £1.1 billion in sales from shop closures in November and December and expected to lose another £480 million during this lockdown until April. However, the government has said that non-essential stores should be allowed to reopen by April 12, meaning that ABF will have 83 per cent of its retail estate trading across Britain, Europe and the United States by the end of that month.

It expects Primark, which does not sell online, to find reopening cash-generative, with the sale of £150 million of the summer fashions that it has been storing since last year, when Covid-19 forced shops to shut for the first time.

John Bason, 63, finance director of ABF, which is controlled by the billionaire Weston family, said that he expected there to be better sales than during the first reopening because the vaccine had given more confidence to shoppers. “This time around I think there will be less holding back,” he said.

ABF said that its sugar, grocery, ingredients and agriculture business was trading ahead of expectations. Mr Bason said that the government’s decision to increase renewable ethanol in petrol would make its bioethanol facility in Hull “nicely profitable”.

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