Primark founder Arthur Ryan dies

1650
Primark founder
// Primark’s founder Arthur Ryan dies aged 83
// The retailer’s founder, chairman and former CEO died yesterday after a short illness
// He opened the Primark’s first store 50 years ago on Mary Street in Dublin, Ireland

Primark founder Arthur Ryan has died at the age of 83, just days after the value retailer marked its 50th anniversary.

In a statement issued yesterday, the retailer said Ryan died after a short illness.

He opened Primark’s first store in 1969 on Mary Street in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland.

Primark is still known as Penneys in Ireland, but was renamed when it expanded to the UK in 1973 to avoid legal issues with US department store retailer JC Penney.

But it wasn’t until 2006 that Primark’s rapid international expansion took off, with the opening of its first store in mainland Europe, in Spain.

In the 50 years of being in business, Primark has grown to 372 stores and now trades in 12 countries, including The Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Austria, France, the US, Italy and Slovenia.

It employs over 75,000 staff across 15 million sq ft of retail space.

Ryan led Primark for four decades as chief executive. For the past 10 years, he held the chairman role.

Primark’s current chief executive Paul Marchant said Ryan was “a true real retail pioneer” and a “gifted retailer and a visionary leader”.

“He innovated and was never complacent, despite many successes,” he said.

“He challenged us all to be the best we can be. His drive and passion was always shown alongside great humility, integrity and support for our people. All of these characteristics remain guiding principles at Primark today.

“Throughout his entire career, Arthur remained deeply connected to the business and the customer, regularly visiting stores and walking the shop floor.

“His legacy will continue in the business that he founded and built. Those of us who worked closely with him will cherish his friendship and wisdom and he will be hugely missed by all of his Primark family.”

Ryan established Primark after being tasked by the wealthy Weston family to open a value fashion retailer.

The family continues to have a majority stake in the chain via its parent company Associated British Foods (AB Foods).

“Arthur Ryan will be remembered as one of the great giants of retailing,” AB Foods chief executive George Weston said.

“When my grandfather, Garfield Weston and uncle, Galen Weston recruited Arthur to run Penneys in 1969 with only one store in Dublin, they knew they were hiring an exceptional trader.

“But what three generations of Westons learnt over the following decades was that Arthur was also a great leader and business builder, driven every day by a relentless desire to delight his customers.

“Arthur Ryan made fashion accessible to all and his legacy looms large. He built a phenomenal world-class retailer, the foundations of which will always belong to Ireland.”

Click here to sign up to Retail Gazette’s free daily email newsletter