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Primark (/ˈprˌmɑːrk/)[7] is an Irish fast fashion retailer with operations in Europe and the United States. It is named Penneys in Republic of Ireland; the original name is not used outside of the country in order to avoid confusion with, or legal action by, American retailer J. C. Penney. The store is a subsidiary of food processing and retail company Associated British Foods.[8]

Primark Stores Limited
Native name
Founded13 June 1969; 50 years ago (1969-06-13) in Dublin, Ireland
FounderArthur Ryan
Number of locations
372 (2019)
Area served
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Slovenia
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Key people
Paul Marchant (CEO and COO)
Revenue£5.949 billion[1] (2016)
Number of employees
ParentAssociated British Foods
Footnotes / references

The company's first store, still in operation, was founded by Arthur Ryan on behalf of the Weston family in June 1969 on 47 Mary Street, Dublin.[4][9] The company is headquartered in Dublin,


Success in Ireland led to expansion to the United Kingdom, and Penneys opened a large store in Belfast City Centre in 1971 and one in Derby, England, in 1973.[10] The company could not use the name "Penneys" in Europe outside Ireland because J. C. Penney had the name registered.[11] The name "Primark" was then invented to use outside Ireland.[4]

Primark opened its current international headquarters in 2015 in a redeveloped Dublin building, Arthur Ryan House, formerly Chapel House.[6][12][13][3]

On 28 August 2018, a fire started on the roof of a Primark store in Belfast, destroying the building and emitting plumes of thick, black smoke over the city. The building was a former bank with historical value that had been renovated previously.[14]


Primark offers a diverse range of products, including baby and children's clothing, womenswear, menswear, homeware, accessories, footwear, beauty products and confectionery.

Starting in 2014, Primark welcomed Sephora products which are being sold starting at £1.[15] Primark starting selling vegan snacks as of January 2018.[16] The company sells clothes at the low cost end of the market below average prices.

Along with retailers such as the Zara and H&M, Primark contributes to the contemporary fast fashion trend. According to an article about Primark in The Economist, "For many shoppers, Primark has an irresistible offer: amazing trendy clothes at amazingly low prices. The result is a new and even faster kind of fast fashion, which forces consumers to buy heaps of items sometimes even the same ones to use when the first ones worn out, discard them after a few wears and then come back for another batch of new outfits."[17]


Number of Primark locations by country[2]
Country Year
No. of
Austria 2012 5
Belgium 2009 7
Czech Republic 2020 0
France 2013 15
Germany 2009 30
Ireland 1969 37
Italy 2016 4
Netherlands 2008 20
Poland 2020 0
Portugal 2009 10
Slovenia 2019 1
Spain 2006 48
United Kingdom 1973 191
United States 2015 9
Total N/A 377

Primark owns over 350 stores.[2] The largest Primark store opened in Birmingham on 11 April 2019, occupying the former Pavilions Shopping Centre of 161,000 sqft. The company expanded rapidly in the UK in the mid-2000s. In 2005, it bought the Littlewoods retail stores for £409m, retaining 40 of the 119 stores and selling the rest.[18] In May 2006, the first Primark store outside Ireland and the United Kingdom opened in Madrid, Spain. After 10 years of constructing a chain of around 40 stores in Spain, Primark opened another store in Madrid in October 2015, the second biggest in the chain.[19] In December 2008, Primark opened in the Netherlands, followed by Portugal, Germany and Belgium in 2009. Primark opened its first store in Austria on 27 September 2012 in Innsbruck. It expanded to France in 2013, in Marseille.[20] The first Italian store opened in 2014.[21] In 2015, Primark opened its first United States store in Downtown Crossing, Boston, in the location that was once the flagship store of Filene's,[22] later New York City, Philadelphia, and Danbury. In July 2018, it was revealed that Primark was entering Poland[23]. On 28 August 2018, fire seriously damaged or destroyed the listed Belfast store as it came close to the end of a major redevelopment.[24] The Belfast store was at risk of collapse, [25] but was reopened on 8 December 2018.[26] On 13 June 2019 Primark expanded to Slovenia with a store in Ljubljana. It has also signed a lease for its first stores in Warsaw, Poland, and in Prague, the Czech Republic.


Working practicesEdit

In 2006, Primark joined the Ethical Trading Initiative, a collaborative organisation bringing together businesses, trades unions and NGOs to work on labour rights issues in their supply chains.[27] ETI members commit to working towards the implementation of a code of conduct based on the International Labour Organization's core conventions.

In December 2008, the UK charity War on Want launched a new report, Fashion Victims II, that showed conditions had not improved in Bangladeshi factories supplying Primark, two years after the charity first visited them.[28]

On 9 January 2009, a supplier was forced by ETI to remove its branding from Primark stores and websites following a BBC/The Observer investigation into the employment practices. The investigation alleged use of illegal immigrant labour and argued that the workers were paid less than the UK legal minimum wage.[29]

On 16 June 2011, the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) published its findings into a Panorama programme[30] 'Primark: On the Rack', broadcast in June 2008. The programme was an undercover investigative documentary examining poor working conditions in Indian factories supplying Primark. Although Primark subsequently stopped doing business with the Indian supplier, the ESC concluded that footage in the programme was 'more likely than not' to have been fabricated.[31] The ESC directed the BBC to make an on-air apology and to ensure that the programme was not repeated or sold to other broadcasters. Primark created a specific website to deal with the issues around the programme.[32]

In 2011 and 2012, Primark achieved ‘Leader’ status in the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).[33]

Dhaka garment factory collapseEdit

On 24 April 2013, the eight-story Rana Plaza commercial building collapsed in Savar, a sub-district near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. At least 1,127 people died and over 2,438 were injured.[34] The factory housed a number of separate garment factories employing around 5,000 people, several shops, and a bank,[35] and manufactured apparel for brands including the Benetton Group, Joe Fresh,[36] The Children's Place, Primark, Monsoon, and DressBarn.[37][38] Primark paid compensation and emergency aid to the victims of the collapse,[10] a move which was welcomed by Oxfam,[39] and committed to review the structural integrity of buildings making its clothes.[40]

Of the 29 brands identified as having sourced products from the Rana Plaza factories, only nine attended meetings held in November 2013 to agree a proposal on compensation to the victims. Several companies refused to sign, including Walmart, Carrefour, Mango, Auchan and Kik. The agreement was signed by Primark, Loblaw, Bonmarché and El Corte Inglés.[41][42]

SOS messagesEdit

In June 2014, two labels both stitched with SOS messages were separately found in garments purchased from a store in Swansea, Wales.[43] Primark argued the supply chain showed these label messages were a hoax.[44][45]

Also in June 2014, a customer from Ireland found an SOS note wrapped in a prison ID card in the pocket of trousers purchased from a Primark store several years earlier.[46][47] The letter was written in Chinese and alleged that prisoners were forced to work "like oxen" making fashion clothes for export for 15 hours per day, and the food they were given wouldn't be fit for dogs or pigs.[48]

A year and a half later an SOS note from an alleged Chinese torture victim was found in socks purchased from Primark.[49]

In December 2018, a human bone was found by a customer in a sock purchased in the shop’s Colchester branch. [50]



  1. ^ "Primark revenue 2007-2017". Statista. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Our Stores". Primark. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b "About Us". Primark. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b c A household Irish name built from humble beginnings: The Penneys story, 1 March 2015; Retrieved 14 April 2016
  5. ^ "Annual Report and Accounts 2016" (PDF). Associated British Foods. 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Snapshot: Primark Stores Limited", Bloomberg; Retrieved 11 February 2016
  7. ^ Helena Horton (15 August 2017). "Primark reveals how to pronounce its name". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
  8. ^ "Primark Holdings".
  9. ^ "Fashion swing is felt by Penneys' owners". Independent News and Media. Reuters. 11 July 2008.
  10. ^ a b Louise O'Neill (19 January 2014). "Why Penneys is no longer our little secret". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  11. ^ "78/193/EEC: Commission Decision of 23 December 1977 relating to a proceeding under Article 85 of the EEC Treaty (IV/29.246 - Penneys)". Commission of the European Communities. 23 December 1977. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Primark officially opens redeveloped Dublin HQ", RTÉ News, 17 September 2015
  13. ^ McCabe, Sarah (29 November 2013). "Expansion plans on course for Penneys international HQ in Dublin". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  14. ^ Reporters, Telegraph (28 August 2018). "Major fire guts Primark store in historic Belfast building". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  15. ^ "Primark's new makeup range". Cosmopolitan. 5 March 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  16. ^ Maria Chiorando (29 January 2018). "Budget Chain Primark Starts Selling Vegan Snack Range". Plant Based News. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  17. ^ "Faster, cheaper fashion". The Economist. 5 September 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  18. ^ Finch, Julia (8 August 2005). "M&S to cash in as Littlewoods disappears". The Guardian.
  19. ^ O' Leary, Elizabeth (15 October 2015). "Penney's opens its second biggest store in the world in Spain". Independent News and Media. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  20. ^ Graham Ruddick (16 December 2013). "Primark targets chic French shoppers as it opens in Marseille". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  21. ^ Redazione (31 August 2014). "Primark, la catena di shopping low cost arriva in Italia". Velvet Style Italia.
  22. ^ Graham Ruddick (23 April 2014). "Primark to open in the United States". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group.
  23. ^ "To będzie prawdziwy hit. Primark wreszcie otworzy sklepy w Polsce". Business Insider (in Polish). 20 July 2018. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  24. ^ "Huge blaze at historic Belfast building destroys Primark store". ITV News. ITN. 28 August 2018.
  25. ^ Fears Belfast's Bank Building will collapse after Primark fire The Guardian, 28 August 2018
  26. ^ Busby, Mattha (8 December 2018). "Huge queue as new Primark opens in Belfast after fire". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  27. ^ "Primark joins Ethical Trading Initiative ETI". Ethical Trading Initiative. 26 May 2006. Archived from the original on 8 October 2007.
  28. ^ "Fashion Victims II". War on Want. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  29. ^ McDougall, Dan (11 January 2009). "Primark in storm over conditions at UK supplier". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  30. ^ "BBC Trust". Archived from the original on 19 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  31. ^ Burrell, Ian; Hickman, Martin (16 June 2011). "BBC crisis over 'fake' sweatshop scene in Primark documentary". The Independent.
  32. ^ "Primark welcomes the BBC Panorama verdict". Primark Response. Archived from the original on 18 June 2011.
  33. ^ "Responsibility - Responsibility in action - Primark Ethical Trade Team". Associated British Foods. Archived from the original on 2 May 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  34. ^ Ahmed, Saeed; Lakhani, Leone (14 June 2013), "Bangladesh building collapse: An end to recovery efforts, a promise of a new start", CNN, retrieved 16 December 2013
  35. ^ Zain Al-Mahmood, Syed (24 April 2013). "Matalan supplier among manufacturers in Bangladesh building collapse". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  36. ^ Clare O'Connor (30 April 2013). "'Extreme Pricing' At What Cost? Retailer Joe Fresh Sends Reps To Bangladesh As Death Toll Rises". Forbes.
  37. ^ Nelson, Dean (24 April 2013). "Bangladesh building collapse kills at least 82 in Dhaka". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  38. ^ Alam, Julhas (24 April 2013). "At least 87 dead in Bangladesh building collapse". USA Today. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  39. ^ "Oxfam response to Primark's statement on compensation for people affected by the Bangladesh Savar building collapse". Oxfam International. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  40. ^ Sarah Butler (22 June 2013). "Bangladeshi factory deaths spark action among high-street clothing chains". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  41. ^ Ovi, Ibrahim Hossain (2013), Buyers' compensation for Rana Plaza victims far from reality, archived from the original on 25 March 2016, retrieved 16 December 2013
  42. ^ "Full text". Rana Plaza Arrangement. 20 November 2013. Archived from the original on 1 August 2016. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  43. ^ "Concerned shoppers speak out as Primark investigates 'sweatshop' labels". South Wales Evening Post. Archived from the original on 21 September 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  44. ^ "Primark claims 'cry for help labels' are a hoax carried out in the UK following investigation". The Independent. ESI Media. 28 June 2014.
  45. ^ "Primark insists labels sewn into its clothes with claims of 'sweatshop conditions' and 'exhausting hours' are hoaxes". Mail Online. DMG Media. 28 June 2014.
  46. ^ "Primark investigates claim of 'cry for help' note in trousers". BBC News. 25 June 2014.
  47. ^ "'The food we eat wouldn't even be given to dogs or pigs': Third Primark SOS note found". Metro. DMG Media. 26 June 2014.
  48. ^ "'Cry for help' from prisoner in Chinese forced labour jail alleged to have been found inside Primark trousers". Amnesty International UK. 24 June 2014. Archived from the original on 9 July 2016.
  49. ^ "Stunned Primark shopper finds disturbing note from 'Chinese torture victim' in sock". Irish Mirror Online. MGN. 11 December 2015.
  50. ^ "Primark customer finds human bone in socks". BBC News Online. 25 January 2019.

External linksEdit

  •   Media related to Primark at Wikimedia Commons