The world’s biggest Primark store to date has just opened in the UK’s second largest city – Birmingham.
Given it’s one of the youngest cities in Europe – 40 per cent of its population is under 25 years – and that it attracts 41 million visitors a year, the new Primark Birmingham High Street is expected to record significant footfall during its first week of opening.
The store is four times the size of Primark’s old New Street store, which is just round the corner, and 5000 people were expected to visit on opening day.
The five-floor 160,000sq ft store is Primark’s 187th in the UK, and occupies the entire site of the former Pavilions centre. By comparison, the retailer’s previous largest shop in the UK is in Manchester, with three floors and around 155,000sq ft.
Primark Birmingham High Street also employs more than 1000 people. Of that total, 430 are existing employees who have transferred from the former New Street branch. Meanwhile, 500 brand new jobs were created, plus another 100 for partner-run in-store experiences including chefs, hair stylists and beauticians.
The new store also features Disney’s first officially licensed cafe located outside of its resorts and cruise ships, barber shop Mills x Primark, beauty studio chain Duck & Dry Xpress, as well as Primark’s standard range of value clothing and accessories.
Primark’s store design director Sanjay Dihman had no trouble explaining why Birmingham was the chosen city for the world’s biggest Primark.
“It was a unique opportunity,” he told Retail Gazette.
“Obviously the Pavilion shopping centre became available, we have a store around the corner, and we’ve been here for approximately 17 years.
“When the opportunity became available, it was just too good to pass up for us, it was an opportunity for us to put something back into Birmingham so we can bring all of our offers under one space.”
The store features slogans on its walls that reference Birmingham’s nickname “Brum”, and Dihman added that some came from vox pops in the city.
The development is believed to have cost Primark around £70 million.
Dihman emphasised that the facilities the new store provides, such as the Disney-themed cafe, restaurant, barber and beauty shop, was a way for Primark to offer customers “something new”.
He said many retailers nowadays were “doing the same thing” and that the offerings were Primark’s way of “standing out from its competitors”.
“The combination of all the various food and beverage offers that we’ve put in will attract footfall, as well as the new store design and the sheer scale of the store,” Dihman told Retail Gazette.
He added: “People will be intrigued by that, and also personalisation, barbers and the beauty studio make it whole collection of different offers that will attract footfall.”
Primark recently reported three per cent growth in its UK like-for-like sales in the 24 week period ending March 3, and the value retailer hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down since. It announced further store openings and boasted that its new in-store cafe “Pri-market” offers Fairtrade food.
Pri-market at the new Birmingham store is the first and only own-brand cafe Primark has to offer, but the retailer told journalists on launch night there were plans to open a second one at its Cardiff store in May.
Primark also told journalists that its range of pyjamas and jeans are made from 100 per cent sustainable cotton, and its beauty range comes with Primark’s certified cruelty-free Leaping Bunny.
The retailer is also known for its collaborations. In October 2017, it announced a collaboration with the Harry Potter brand, and dedicated a whole section of its London Tottenham Court Road store to the franchise. It has now brought that collaboration to its new Birmingham store.
Meanwhile, the new Disney-themed cafe is strategically situated on the same level as Primark’s kidswear range to attract families.
The cafe features a Mickey Mouse shaped entrance and digital tables where children are able to play games while dining in.
Other collaborations at the new store includes Pusheen, the tabby cat featured in comic strips from the Everyday Cute Tumblr page, as well as notable TV series Friends and Game of Thrones.
Dihman said the personalisation that Primark offers through Custom Lab – the bespoke print lab for t-shirts and other items – in an increasing number of its stores was growing in popularity – especially in London.
“It’s an offer we’ve wanted to try and it’s worked very well on Oxford Street so we thought we’ll extend it to Birmingham,” he said.
Although the new store has provided high hopes for Primark, the many issues that the UK’s high street stores face nowadays is undeniable. Just recently, PwC found that over 2400 stores disappeared from the UK’s top 500 high streets in the past year.
With renowned retailers such as House of Fraser, and most recently Debenhams going into decline, it might seem like the future of the high street remains uncertain. But Primark remains confident in reviving consumers’ appeal to bricks-and-mortar retail.
Dihman also believes the new store will have a positive effect on Birmingham’s retail scene.
“In this particular location, it provides a halo effect for the other operators on High Street in Birmingham, and also on Moor Street,” he said.
“Hopefully the new store will help other retailers, it might drive footfall into the city – the space has been empty for the best part of three to four years now, so we’re bringing a new offer into the space so that might have a halo effect for other retailers.
“We just want to keep improving and innovating and basically surprising our customers.”