Primark's 'outstanding' sales boost AB Foods

Primark store The Primark chain is now expanding across Europe

Clothes retailer Primark has enjoyed an "outstanding performance" during the past few months, according to its owner Associated British Foods.

It expects total sales to be up 23% in six months to 2 March, while like-for-like sales - which strip out new store openings - are set to be 7% higher.

Profit margins were higher thanks to lower cotton prices and better trading.

As a result, AB Foods says its half-year results will be ahead of expectations.

In addition to Primark, AB Foods also owns British Sugar, and a number of well-known food brands such as Kingsmill, Ryvita and Ovaltine.

Rapid expansion

With the UK economy and economies across Europe seeing weak or negative economic growth, Primark's focus on cheap clothing has proved to be popular among cash-strapped consumers.

The chain has been expanding rapidly. AB said that it had 15 new stories in the past six months, taking the total to 257.

Its expansion into Europe includes six new stores in Spain, two in Germany, two in Austria and one in the Netherlands.

It is faring much better than rival UK clothing retailers. Over the crucial Christmas trading period, like-for-like sales at Marks and Spencer fell by 1.8%.

However, the 7% rise in like-for-like sales at Primark over the half-year implies a slowdown in recent sales as the chain had recorded a 9% increase in underlying sales during the first 16 weeks of the period.

AB Foods also said that while half-year earnings were set to beat forecasts, its expectations for its full-year results remained unchanged.

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