Monday 7 September 2020 8:24 am

Primark sales surge towards £2bn in post-lockdown rebound

Primark owner Associated British Foods (ABF) said today that sales at the high street chain had surged in the fourth quarter as shoppers rushed back to the high street after lockdown.

Despite the three-month lockdown period, ABF said Primark was on course to make a profit of £350m this year, the top end of previous forecasts.

Read more: Primark owner ABF reveals £284m charge for unsold stock

However, the same figure last year stood at £913m, indicating the scale of the damage the coronavirus has done to the firm.

Shares in ABF rose two per cent as markets opened this morning.

In a trading update, the firm said that total sales were expected to top £2bn this year. Compared to pre-coronavirus levels, ABF said sales had been “reassuring and encouraging”.

However, over the whole year sales are expected to slip 12 per cent in the UK. Discounting the four largest stores in the country, that figure slips to five per cent.

It added that over the past month, Primark achieved its highest ever value and volume shares for this time of year.

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Immediately after reopening its stores in May, June and July the firm said there had been a significant increase in the amount that people were buying, suggesting considerable pent-up demand.

Although this enlarged basket size has dropped in recent weeks, it still remains higher than it did a year ago.

Primark is responsible for about two-thirds of ABF’s profit, and there are plans to further expand the fashion brand internationally.

Richard Hunter of Interactive Investor said: “The fact that the most recent numbers are at record levels should undo some of the damage inevitably suffered during the lockdown, when store closures were estimated to have resulted in lost revenues of £650 million per month.”

In its grocery division, ABF said that it expected strong second half growth, driven by increased demand from retail customers as a result of the pandemic.

Read more: Primark set to reject Treasury’s furlough bonus payment

Likewise, the firm said that revenue from its sugar division would be ahead of last year, while profit would be “well ahead”.

ABF said that the bounce back in European sugar prices would drive up its revenue and profit in the division.