primarni : A name for the discount clothing store Primark, derived from combining Armani with Primark to make an ironic word which indicates just how “un-designer” Primark is. First heard on TV by Sugar Rush actress Olivia Hallinan.
This is a success story. In 1969 when the first Penney’s branded clothing store opened in Dublin I am sure that the discount clothing retailer had smaller ambition. 50 years ago breaking even was probably high on the agenda in an impoverished country with the world’s largest emigrant population. Lasting the transition from the sixties to the seventies and all the extreme fashion trends that appeared would be tough so I am guessing that back then Penney’s just sold cheap clothing, forget the fashion. Discount street fashion is, as we know, all about cost and, more so, response. You see it on the street, on the catwalks, and it needs to be on the shelves ASAP, on the clothes rails before it is had been and gone from the fashion pages of newspapers and magazines. No one wants to be seen in last season’s jeggins.
Somehow the Irish stores persevered and in 1974 Primark, as it came to be known, invaded the shores of mainland Britain starting with that fashion mecca, Derby.
But it did not do well from the off. This was a long game, so to speak, and the brand was little more than a joke to the British fashion conscious, along with Millets and Peacocks and the Co-op.
It wasn’t until the new millennia that Primark expanded in terms of number of stores (262 and counting) and public interest and now commands 10% of the total UK sales by volume. How? It is the Primark buying power that allowed it to financially survive and do well while its pricier rivals New Look and Peacocks are feeling the pinch of the economic downturn. A closely-guarded supply chain that spans the globe like a spider web and enormous buying power of the owner, Associated British Foods, despite minimal profit on many of their items, and some of the best buyers in the business, gives Primark the response time to react to high street trends and still offer shoes for £7, less than a pound for a pair of leggings, and £5 for a woollen jumper that actually looks good. And that is where it wins. The key with Primark, or Primarni as it is jokingly known, to a point where two stores flaunt this on their shop front, is that it hits the mark in terms of fashion as well as price and the buying public cannot get enough and I have seen it. The large store at the end of Oxford is a full-contact mob scene full of tourists from nations not “lucky” enough to be graced with a store.
In 2006 they opened in Spain, two years later in the Netherlands. Portugal, Germany, followed before Belgium, Austria, and even the fashion elitist French has been taking Primani to their Gallic bosom prompting the biggest of all, a potential move the largest consumer market in the work, the USA.
What is a surprise is that, given the state of the global economy, what Primark has done with clever marketing and adept designs, is move up the food chain. Celebrities, and this is where most British girls get their fashion sense, can be seen in the gossip magazines, and on reality TV shows, combining boutique store pieces, designer items, with Primark. And some of the Primark designs are even starting to be worth something. The ever popular faux leather sleeves, wool autumn coat, is retailing in the second-hand market for £45, prompting the thought that maybe this low-end high street fashion retailer, isn’t as low-end as you think.
So I have to amend my description of the original store and say that Primark is no longer “cheap clothing, forget the fashion,” this is increasingly the place to be seen, prompting the new fashion craze, Primania.