Few lasting effects from factory-collapse outrage
Having made the decision to expand the chain beyond its traditional Irish and UK base, the first continental European Primark store opened in 2006, in Spain. Since then, it has expanded across borders, to Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium – and soon France.
It has proved a phenomenal success. Headquartered in Dublin and headed by Paul Marchant, the executive has by and large adopted the low profile that was the hallmark of his predecessor – Arthur Ryan, the former Dunnes executive who for decades successfully ran the clothing business.
But while Primark has excelled, it's done so off the back of cheap clothing that this year got it into a whole lot of bother.
A building collapse in Bangladesh that killed close to 1,200 people shone the spotlight on the international rag trade. The factory supplied some items to Primark, while other western brands also sourced items from operators in the building.
Primark rushed to provide compensation and ongoing support to the families of those affected, but the whole affair cast a pall over the industry, highlighting poor working conditions endured to satiate western consumers.
But Primark has obviously suffered few lasting effects from the public outrage at the time, with its second-half sales surging ahead.
Yet Primark is also a crutch. ABF's sugar production business (it's one of the world's biggest producers) is facing challenges.
"Current negotiations with our EU customers regarding prices for the 2013/14 marketing year are proving challenging," it warned, and forecast that with the end of the sugar quota system, prices in Europe will remain under pressure beyond 2017.
Just as well shoppers are still sweet on Primark.