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How Penneys make it all possible


Penneys on O'Connell Street in Dublin

Penneys on O'Connell Street in Dublin

A model in Penneys' clothes

A model in Penneys' clothes

A model wearing Penneys clothes

A model wearing Penneys clothes

Kate Moss wore a Penneys' poncho to her hen night

Kate Moss wore a Penneys' poncho to her hen night

A necklace from Penneys

A necklace from Penneys

A maxi dress from Penneys

A maxi dress from Penneys


Penneys on O'Connell Street in Dublin

You can't pass Penneys. Few can resist the urge to keep on walking when the understated blue signage comes into view. You might have an hour to kill before a class, maybe you are on the way to meet a friend, perhaps it is raining and you're waiting for the 123 bus on O'Connell Street. You're going in.

When it comes to perceived value for money, there is much debate surrounding fast-fashion.

However, in terms of growth, a Morgan Stanley report confidently values Primark – as it is known in UK and mainland Europe – at a staggering €36bn.

From a single Mary Street discount frock shop, Penneys has in its 45 years crossed the Irish Sea and the English Channel to become a multi-billion euro business which is currently giving the global empires of H&M and Intidex (Zara) a run for their money.

Morgan Stanley credits the success of Primark to supply-chain responsiveness, an enhanced customer experience and other such business jargon, but what is it about Penneys that draws customers in their droves with a magnetic pull?

1 Value For Money
Though high-fashion glossy magazines will elegantly stamp their feet about an investment cashmere sweater that you'll be wearing for decades, the perspective on where price and quality collide is in the eye of the consumer.

Modern fashion demands a range of 'looks' in an increasingly stylised sartorial landscape – statement minimalism, sporty chic, neo-grunge, boyism, retro elegance and any combination of the above. For the cash-strapped gal (or fella) how does an updated wardrobe for summer including shoes, apparel, bags and accessories compare to a single pair of jeans for the same amount at an up-market retailer – even if the gear may only stand the test of time in selfies?

2 All Comers Welcome
Our body-obsessed culture may have the best of intentions not to discriminate against the 'plus sized', but few mid and upper-market fashion brands cater to the curvier among us.

Offering clothing up to a size 20 and three pant lengths, Penneys embraces the needs of a wide range of body shapes and heights. Where a size 18 shopper may feel abnormal within the walls of luxe-for-less brands, where the offerings in sizes over 16 are limited, she is accepted at Penneys – and can still go up a size if she needs to.

3 Where Runway Meets the Street

Penneys is among a group of retailers that doesn't just hang on Victoria Beckham's every show.

Designer fashion, like street style, is as much an end result as it is a trend-setter. Everybody loves to get that must-have piece that trickled down off the Parisian catwalks onto the racks for a score.

Where the job was formerly out-sourced to trend casting agencies, increasingly designers and retailers are directly scouting the streets of fashion capitals to observe trends which have been born of anything from a new musical genre, the latest retro craze, or incubating subculture. In this light, the company is truly on the edge of what is happening in fashion, with an ability to respond to the market quicker than lightning.

4 Bargain Bragging Rights
The recession has transformed us from name-dropping label lushes into frugal fashionistas, prouder to bag a Penneys bargain than ensure that all and sundry have had an informative gander at some Louboutin red soles. Primark and its comrades in fast fashion have managed to create a customer that actively tries to find items that can pass for more than their modest price tag. How the adrenaline flows when you manage to pull off a chic and thrifty purchase.

5 Everything
Whether it is a hole in your tights, a last-minute party invite, school uniforms, Christmas decorations, or a need for a dose of retail therapy, Penneys is one of the most popular one-stop shops for the economically challenged. How many of us have popped in for a cursory perusal of the latest stock, only to realise that we need socks and ended up leaving with a three-pack of tea towels, hand sanitiser, a pack of Marvel superhero toothbrushes, a bathrobe, a travel sized Vaseline and a bedside lamp – and socks.

Customers love the feeling that the store has done their thinking for them, lining a meandering queuing aisle with stuff they never knew they needed.

The added value of knowing that the customer is going to find something they need, even if they're not looking for anything, is priceless.

6 Kate Moss
A nod from the ageless supermodel guarantees a following from a vast tribe of fashion fans, from teens to moms, and rock chicks to career girls. Kate Moss inspired us all with her budget-meets-luxury leaning wearing a Primark Navaho print poncho cardigan to her hen party at the Isle of Wight festival in November 2011 – the ultimate seal of approval. Primark counts Sex and the City's Kristin Davis, Peaches Geldof and our own Pippa O'Connor among its high-profile fan base.

7 Managing Ethics
There has been widespread criticism of budget fashion's connection to sweat-shop practices and the tragic deaths and injuries caused by the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013.

Being supplied by a factory in the complex, Primark was public about not shying away from its responsibilities. Of course, it is in the brand's best interest to manage the optics of continuing to trade in Bangladesh, but an entire website 'Primark Ethical Trading' would suggest that the company has a long-term commitment to sustainability, up-to-code work conditions and pay, and driving a modern and safe garment industry.

The company openly admits that 97pc of its stock is produced in the same factories as its competitors, but the costs are kept low by keeping marketing budgets to a bare minimum. So don't expect to see a five-storey David Beckham in Penneys underpants anytime soon.

Primark's meteoric rise comes down to an old-style formula of fulfilling the needs of the customer, and letting word-of-mouth do the rest. So with speculation rife that Primark may be unleashed as a separate listed company by its parent company ABF, it is possible that before long Wall Street executives won't be able to pass Penneys either.


Did you know Penneys and Brown Thomas are cousins?


The first store is opened in Dublin's Mary Street by luxury retail Midas Galen Weston, making Brown Thomas and Penneys long-lost cousins.


A social media board on the brand's UK website, where fashionistas can upload and share their styled Primark looks.


The number of Penneys and Primark stores operating in nine markets, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, France and Belgium.


The brand has been honoured by the lexicon with a rather complimentary portmanteau – however, Giorgio may not be so impressed.


Primark's largest store is their three-floor 155,000sq ft (14,400 sqm) space located at 106-122 Market Street, Manchester.

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