PRIMARK has put rival Marks & Spencer in the shade as demand for its budget ranges and overseas expansion drove a 16% sales boost.
The discount chain, which opened its 238th store this week, described trading in the UK as good across the 16 weeks to June 23, despite a weaker performance during a weather-hit April.
Its latest upbeat comments contrast with those of M&S this week after a 6.8% drop in clothing and general merchandise sales – its worst showing in three years.
Investec Securities analyst Martin Deboo described Primark’s performance as impressive but shares in owner Associated British Foods were flat yesterday due to the impact of strong competition on its Kingsmill bread business.
The grocery division, which also owns Twinings tea, saw its margins come under pressure as shoppers sought out aggressive promotions.
But Silver Spoon sugar was supported by strong home baking trends over the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Jordans and Ryvita were helped by advertising campaigns. Ovaltine saw strong growth in emerging markets.
Its sugar business lifted revenues by 54% as it benefited from higher prices and rising volumes.
Primark’s performance was boosted by the opening of four new stores in recession-hit Spain over the period and analysts believe its estate could grow to 250 by Christmas as it continues to expand overseas.
Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said: “The history of the older clothing chains like M&S is against them, in terms of Primark’s burgeoning European expansion programme, but the success of newer brands like Zara and H&M show that retailers can travel outside their home territories if they stick to their principles.
“In the case of Primark, there are plenty of discount fast-fashion chains around, but what makes them different is the high quality of their store merchandising and design.”