Is there a better guide to the health of the high street than Primark? The cheap-as-chips clothing jumble sale is about as good a barometer as any for what’s happening, with Next going increasingly online and M&S not what it once was in clothing and more of a grocer than ever. Primark also doesn’t do online so we get an unmuddied view. So, it’s good news that AB Foods reports Primark sales have bounced back strongly since reopening. Sales to the year-end since reopening are due to hit £2bn, but in the UK sales are still likely to be down 12 per cent from last year on a like-for-like basis. Shopping centre and regional high street stores are trading broadly in line with last year. Large destination city centre stores, which rely on tourism and commuters, have seen a significant decline in footfall. Exclude the big 4 city centre stores and the LFLs are only -5 per cent. Perhaps there is life in the British high street after all? A lot of this will be pent-up demand, but Primark’s low-pricing model makes it very resistant to cyclical downtrends. ABF shares rose 4 per cent at the open before paring gains to trade around 2 per cent higher.
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