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British speakers at the WRC 2023, spearheaded by Primark, united against Brexit

By Alicia Reyes Sarmiento


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Image of Paul Marchant, CEO of Primark, courtesy of Primark.

If there is one thing the speakers from British companies made clear during the last day of the World Retail Congress 2023 in Barcelona today, it is that they are unhappy with the negative consequences of Brexit, a view that Primark CEO Paul Marchant echoed in his speech yesterday.

As well as calling for more recognition for retailers as "economic drivers", he pointed out that people have a certain fear of the current social instability on the high street.

"The UK government should play a more active role in making the UK high street a vibrant, lively and safe environment for people to enjoy their shopping again," he said during his speech.

"It is crucial that we return to some of the 'fundamentals' that made the UK essential to the rest of the world," he said.

And the reality is that more and more British groups and organisations have come out to question the benefits that Britain's exit from the Union will ultimately bring to the isles.

Archive image: Frontend of Primark's new website for Spain. Courtesy of Primark.

Marchant touched on other interesting points during his speech, such as Primark's (questioned) sustainability and its recovery from the pandemic and the role of the shops versus the online channel.

Earlier this week, the company launched its new website in Spain and took its first steps towards omnichannel shopping in the country. In this context, CEO Marchand noted: "although our online presence is limited due to our business model, we do receive a lot of information from our customers through TikTok, the website and Instagram".

Primark shop in Brooklyn's City Point shopping centre. City Point, official Facebook page.

Its shops are a fundamental part of Primark's business, and its business model - inspired by flea markets and even supermarkets, with the mountains of low-priced clothes and shopping trolleys - is in and of itself what allows them to keep their prices low.

A year ago, when they started to take their first steps on the worldwide web, the company claimed not to have the distribution infrastructure necessary to sustain a successful e-commerce, however, in his speech yesterday, their CEO said that they consider it essential to keep their communication with the shops intact.

We don't like the term fast fashion

"Basics constitute 50 percent of our sales, products that do not change with trends", Marchant explained during his presentation in Barcelona. Therefore, although they understand that though they still have a lot of room for improvement, they do not like the term "fast fashion". Indeed, the biggest mistake he believes they have made in this area is "not communicating our progress".

"We've had a CSR person for a long time, but our mistake has been not sharing information about our progress because we've always been very private", he continued.

"However, the pandemic has taught us that if we are able to work with local authorities, we can achieve great things".

It was "a challenge for us and also for our competitors. For the first time we joined forces to overcome an absolutely exceptional situation," the Primark CEO concluded.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.ES. Translation and editing from Spanish into English by Veerle Versteeg.

World Retail Congress