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Coronavirus: Primark goes from £650m sales a month to nothing

Primark

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Clothing retailer Primark has gone from making £650m in sales per month to nothing as the coronavirus has forced it to close across Europe and the US.

Primark’s owner “has been squarely in the path of this pandemic,” chief executive George Weston told investors.

“From making sales of £650m each month, since the last of our stores closed on 22 March, we have sold nothing.”

Without furlough support from European states, many of its 68,000 staff would have been made redundant, he said.

Associated British Foods, Primark’s owner, has paid its suppliers for stock it has received, it said, and will set up a fund to ensure workers who make those clothes are paid.

‘In awe’

This move comes at a time when competing retailers have asked suppliers for payment holidays and cuts.

Earlier this month New Look said it would suspend payments to suppliers for existing stock “indefinitely”, telling them in a letter that the stock can be collected by its owners.

The firm is cash-rich by comparison with many companies with a High Street presence.

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It has £801m in cash and a £1.09bn loan agreed, which it has recently drawn down in case banks have trouble lending in the future.

As well as Primark, Associated British Foods owns food brands including Twinings tea, Blue Dragon sauces and Ovaltine.

However, while many rivals have been able to makes sales online, Primark sells only gift cards through its website.

Mr Weston also paid tribute to two workers who within the last three weeks have died of the disease.

Mario Marioli worked for 40 years at a yeast plant the firm owns in Italy, and Claudio Maini worked at Italian balsamic vinegar maker Acetum for twenty years.

“I am in awe of the Primark teams for their care, good judgement and immense hard work as they have managed this crisis,” Mr Weston said.

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