Bottom Line: Hot competition in retail revolution

Elizabeth Fournier

PRIMARK doesn’t sell food, but if it did, it’s unlikely the range would compete with Marks & Spencer. Unfortunately for the 129-year-old high-street stalwart, its younger rival does sell clothes – a lot of them.

Yesterday’s contrasting results from the two retailers were a stark reminder of just how much the British high street has changed in the past few years. Though M&S is still the UK’s biggest clothing retailer, Primark – along with the major supermarkets – has been grabbing market share as shoppers hunt for bargains.

And it’s done so without an online platform (bar a brief tie-up with Asos), achieving huge growth without shelling out for the multichannel systems that retailers such as Next and Argos now rely on to drive sales.

That may have to change, but in the meantime Primark’s low-cost, high-turnover model is putting M&S’s £199 cashmere onesies and inability to get its supply chain right to shame. M&S boss Marc Bolland may think he’s inspiring confidence by aiming for style and quality over price, but in doing so he’s all but admitting Primark has won the battle for value. Worse, it’s also cornered the fashion pack. Far from shunning the chain’s throwaway accessories, fashion editors and students alike are happy to rock a “Primarni” bargain. It may be well-supported by M&S underwear, but no one’s talking about that.

Trying to mould a fashion offering in the style of M&S’s upscale food range is not the way to compete in an clothing market where shoppers are happy to sacrifice quality for value.

This isn’t any high-street revolution, this is a Primark high-street revolution.