British-Irish fast-fashion retail phenomenon Primark opened its first U.S. store in Boston last week to great fanfare, and will be opening a second store in Philadelphia soon.
But, notably, the retailer has eschewed selling on the web. Shoppers can browse online to see offerings, but the stuff is too inexpensive to enable the cost of e-commerce logistics.
The retailer, known as Penneys in Ireland and Primark elsewhere (no relationship with J.C. Penney stateside) opened in Ireland in 1969 and is now owned by British conglomerate Associated British Foods.
Primark has found a good spot for itself in Boston. Although the area known as Downtown Crossing was once anchored by Filene’s department store, that institution is long gone. The area has been host to discount stores of all stripes for years now.
Primark’s reluctance to maintain a website, which would require a whole set of e-commerce logistics, shouldn’t surprise people, though. H&M and Ikea are two retailers that took a while to get their wares online in any meaningful way; full availability of most of its offerings were only found in stores until recently. The shipping and logistics costs, for Primark anyway, remain prohibitive, according to Lucie Greene, worldwide director of the innovation group at J. Walter Thompson, speaking to Digiday.
“Primark has historically steered clear of e-commerce. The price points of its clothing and products are so low, it doesn’t make sense,” Greene told Digiday. “It would be operationally hugely expensive and difficult, and not necessarily worth it when you consider the margins. Primark is a volume business.”
In an increasingly omnichannel world, Primark is thumbing its nose at the hassle of it. If it succeeds, might other retailers question their own online efforts and expenses?