Mar 22, 2020
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Fast fashion crisis: Primark, New Look, River Island, Arcadia shut all UK stores

Mar 22, 2020

Fast fashion stores across the UK and Ireland are shutting their doors for who-knows-how-long as footfall drops to a trickle, despite the government not having specifically ordered shops to shut.

Primark's UK and Ireland stores are now shut - Photo, Sandra Halliday

Primark is the latest high-profile closure with the company shutting its 189 domestic branches on Sunday afternoon. It comes as the governments in the UK and Ireland urge consumers to practice social distancing with the likelihood of new rules if they don't.

But the challenge for Primark, unlike most of its retail rivals, is that it doesn't sell online so closures mean no goods will be sold at all. As a consequence, the company has also cancelled all future orders from suppliers. Its shops in most European locations are also shut.

As well as there being no work for its store staff, its head office design and buying teams will also be affected, as will the manufacturing companies in its supply chain and others involved in its logistics operation. 

The company, which is part of the listed Associated British Foods business, said its direct employees will get their full pay for 14 days. It’s unclear what would happen after that but the UK government has put measures in place to pay up to 80% of the wages of contracted staff as long as their employers agree to keep them on.

Primark CEO Paul Marchant said the retailer is battling "unprecedented, and frankly unimaginable times”.

Other fast fashion retailers are shutting their stores too. On Saturday New Look — which is currently still working through its recovery plan — said it has closed all of its 480 UK stores with its 28 Republic of Ireland stores having also shut on Friday.

The firm’s online store remains in operation but there has been talk that the retailer is also scaling back production.

River Island closed its UK and Ireland stores too at the end of last week, but its website says it's "still delivering style 24/7".

Meanwhile Arcadia, which owns Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis, has shut its hundreds of stores. Reports said that it plans to pay its workers for the next month and will review the situation after that.

It comes at the worst possible time for Arcadia, which is operating under a series of company voluntary arrangements after several years of a declining market for fashion through its physical retail stores.

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