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For those of you not in the know, Primark is a department store chain that specialises in clothing for men, women and children/babies. They also include a home section and ladies...ahem...err...yes. Unmentionables, in other words. They have been operating for several years and they are currently buying out the Littlewoods stores, several of the best of which will be turned into Primarks and the rest sold for a tidy sum to other retailers. It's a good move that should see the chain expand its empire to reach more customers across the UK.
PRIMARK: THE MARKET
Primark specialise in low prices. Please note that when I say low, what I really mean is INCREDIBLY LOW. A ladies fashion belt for £2, a pair of mens fashion jeans for £8....you're getting the idea. In order for Primark to make a decent enough profit after paying its work force and all its other expenses at these sorts of prices, it needs to sell sheer volume. Bulk sales, in more confined terms. In their method of bulk selling lie several advantages and several disadvantages but be well aware from the start that Primark is not about high price and top notch quality. It is about slightly low but still reasonable quality for a very very low price.
V IS FOR VALUE
So what is Primark like as a store then? (I hear you ask). Well as aforementioned, Primark sell at low prices and therefore sell in bulk (do remember this point because it will be returned to later). The quality of their stock is by no means anywhere near the best on the high street. You will find better in Marks and Spencer, BHS or Debenhams for example, no question. However, it's not always all about quality - it's also about value and value is quality compared to price. This is where Primark swim into the lead. Their quality, while not being the best is still reasonable but their prices are simply unbeatable. Nowhere else could you find cheaper socks, jeans, t-shirts, belts, pillows, bras...and so it goes on. To give you an idea, I bought a pair of brown bootcut cords and a thick winter top from Primark which formed a nice, slightly smart winter outfit for £16 (£8 per item). Now that's good. The cords have a seam down the side which indicates lesser quality but the point is, they look good and they last easily long enough to merit the price ticket. BHS, on the other hand were selling a very similar jumper, only a bit better quality but for the princely sum of £12. Marks and Spencer did the same deal for £15. This is just on the jumper, do note - not the cords. This is where Primark come into their own you see because you don't need to shop around for the right price when you have one of their stores near you because you know they've won the battle before the first punch has been thrown.
IT'S GOT THE LOOK
When it comes to fashion, Primark aren't half bad. If you were 16 then you wouldn't necessarily boast to your piers that 65% of your wardrobe comes from the cheap as chips, dark blue and white themed chain store but then you wouldn't cringe at their more trendy offerings either. Many lines that they produce are not too dissimilar to lines that can be found in fashion stores such as Zara and Top Shop/Top Man. Sure the quality hasn't quite caught up and they don't look quite the same but it's not far off by any means and remember that the prices are second to none. As a young male of 19 years, I would say 1 in 8 or so items I buy come from Primark. It's usually just t-shirts and underwear but I did touch on an outfit previously - a good find. if you're on a very strict budget and want to look pretty cool then Primark won't upset you - you'll find some good stuff to strut about in and there are always a few gems to be snapped up.
FIGHTING THE HIVE TO REACH THE HONEY
So does its great value make Primark a great store? Well to be perfectly frank, no it doesn't. True enough, Primark have the value nailed but there are more concerning issues at stake. Lets start by returning to the point I asked you to make a note of earlier. Primark sell in bulk in order to make their money. That means they sell to a large amount of people and their stores are usually heaving with people. If you make a trip on a saturday or sunday then you can expect to average a speed through the store of roughly 1 metre per minute. This is more then off-putting to a potential buyer. You see a rack of what might be (probably is) decent gear and it's smothered in vulturous customers, like wasps swarming around a dropped ice cream on a hot day. When you reach the rack itself, half of the stock is on the floor, half of it is dirty due to being on the floor and all the hangers are mixed up. This highlights the first gripe. Primark stores are on the whole very messy. usually, a good sixth of the stock is on the floor and here's the thing. On a weekend day it is not uncommon to see customers rummaging through stock while its on the floor, digging through to find their size. It's a very off putting and deterring sight and I'd be damned if I was going to jump into the fray just to see if there's something I like. So surely Primark need more staff then to clear up? Time for grip number two. In our Primark at least, there is large force of staff - on a weekend day, at least 40 - strong. While a few of them swan around by the tills, the remaining staff members stand about chatting to each other as if they're in a quiet pub around lunch time while around them is total carnage and mountains of clothes on the floor and off hangers. Also, should you approach one of these sales zombies with a query, you are subsequently passed to various different bearers of the responsibility of assisting you before one of them finally takes you on board and then reveals that they havent a clue what you're asking about. It's more frustrating then your computer crashing just as you're about to break a new high score on solitaire and makes one wonder why Primark employ such workers. I'm not judging all Primark staff under this ruling but this is the experience in my local store (a newly built large Primark) and it really sends out a negative impression. Also noticable is the problems with the fitting rooms. Gripe number...oh I think I'm losing count. No thats right, number three. Yes, the fitting rooms. Over crowded, messy, hot and unquestionably off putting. On a monday morning, you'd probably be fine but for the most part, their fitting rooms boast a long queue, a half asleep attendant (if there is one) and a climate hotter then the sahara at midday. Needless to say, I do not try things on in their store. Fortunately, you can always return goods if need be.
The last thing to note is that Primark don't tend to have "sales". Most of what they sell is already as low as they will sell it which is a good thing because everyone gets a low price but don't wait for a half price event because it just doesn't work that way.
PRIMARK'S GOOD BITS
So there are the main problems with Primark. Untidy, messy, crowded, hot and generally a very tiresome, hot and bothered shopping experience but lets not over look their redeeming features. As I've said before, excellent value is their hallmark and their clothing is mostly quite reliable. Most of it wont last forever but it'll last long enough to suit your needs and make a good dishcloth at the end of it. Also, they are very good with refunds and returns. In our store, there is no time limit for a return, just the usual expected reasonable amount of time and reasonable condition. This means you needn't venture near those awful fitting rooms (which are about as welcome as a hornet on a nudist beach) but you can try things on in the comfort of your home and return them at your convenience.
So when it comes to pitching Primark against its competitors how does it fare? Well let me cast my critical eye over some of its main contenders.
BHS - 4/5. Good fashion lines, good value but not the best. Friendly staff.
MARKS AND SPENCER'S - 4/5. Now lower prices and good quality lines, though some fittings in certain lines are a little iffy. Great food section.
JOHN LEWIS - 4/5. Good quality and good guarantees. Not the cheapest store and their "Never Knowingly Undersold" policy is not always true but most of the time it is and a great range of goods.
PRIMARK - 3/5. Fantastic value and low prices but slightly unhelpful staff and very messy and hard to shop in.
These are the main department stores listed here. As you can see, I have given Primark a lower rating though that doesn't mean you should only look in the other 3 stores - Primark at least have their rightful place as cheapest of the lot.
So to round things off, Primark overall are not all bad but not brilliant. It's all very well having good value but if getting to the stock itself is such a deterring and unwelcome challenge then there is little point. Personally, I like to shop with very few other people around and I tend to drift around quite quickly since I'm not a shopping fan; another impossibility in Primark.
So my final advice is simply this. If you're a big fan of buying as cheap as possible and you don't mind fighting your way through and spending time then Primark is most certainly for you. Otherwise, do check it out on quiet days by all means (best to head there early) but don't bother with it apart from that. Also, avoid the store at weekends like the plague - even if it is the only chance you get to shop because you'll waste a lot of your time standing within a tomb of other bodies, on the floor in a pile of special offer cardigans or in a long queue to purchase the pair of socks you eventually found in the right colour.