Tuesday 6 December 2016

Can Penneys succeed where so many others have failed?

Published 11/08/2015 | 02:30

The 'Boston Globe' reports that a common question around the city which hosted the most infamous tea party of all time has been: What the heck is Primark?

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Well, the good citizens of JF Kennedy's home town are about to find out, as the Irish giant looks across the Atlantic for its first bite into the American fashion apple.

Invading America didn't exactly work out for retailers M&S and Tesco. They didn't succeed in breaking into the US, a fate shared by lots of eager pop bands.

The Scandinavian fashion label, H&M, didn't enjoy Stateside success initially but it is now firmly ensconced in the American shopping psyche along with Topshop, the British chain which opened an outpost of their brand in New York's Soho in 2009 - with the help of Kate Moss.

They have taken on local fast-fashion brands like Forever 21 and Target, all of whom are firmly in Primark's line of fire, along with the US retail leader Macy's.

Read more: Irish retail chain Penneys makes history with first American store

Zara, from the Spanish Inditex group, turned heads when it threatened to overtake Gap Inc's status in the US and into the equation of 'what ifs' for the Primark bosses goes the 'value for money' American brands like TK Maxx and Walmart.

Primark has not taken its American adventure lightly and it knows that Americans have reared generations of 'mall rats' which is why it has hand-picked its locations so carefully.

Primark's board of directors in Dublin chose to dip their toe into the highly competitive French market by opening first in Marseilles, rather than Paris, and that decision in December 2013, paid off.

They also learned the nuances of the chic French before marching on Paris.

Their boast to America is that they are known in Europe for on-trend pieces "at very tame prices", with 1.5 million shoppers swinging by their stores on any given day.

Leaving New York to one side, Primark has gone for the high altar of Boston retail in choosing the former Filene's store - where the basement bargains were legendary.

Boston? Safe you might think, with its enormous Irish-American catchment and stories of bargains from the ol' country. But, shamrockery aside, this is a college town. Students love jeans and denims are something Primark does very well - and its new US advertisements play to that.

The sheer fashionability of its A/W 15 collection, which is very strong on accessories, brings more fire-power for Primark as it prepares to invade the US. From the much-talked-about menswear prices to the khaki jackets, tartan shirts and that big faux fur coat. And we all know how cold winters can be in Boston.

Irish Independent

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