Primark's job cuts announcement comes less than 3 years after opening of flagship store in Milton Keynes

Retail giant says decision follows drop in sales over Christmas period due to Covid

By Olga Norford
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 11:05 am
Updated Thursday, 20th January 2022, 11:06 am

Retail giant Primark, which has two stores in Milton Keynes, is set to axe around 400 jobs across its UK stores as part of an overhaul of its retail management team.

A consultation with staff has been launched by owners Associated British Foods as it looks to simplify its management structure in the UK.

The announcement comes as the retailer reported a drop in sales due to fears over the Omicron variant over the Christmas period - and less than three years after Primark launched its flagship store at centre:mk.

Primark's flagship store at centre:mk opened on April 16, 2019

The 75,000 sq ft store, located at the former BHS unit in Silbury Arcade, opened on April 16, 2019, setting a record for centre:mk, as the biggest store to open at the shopping centre in a quarter of a century. Its homeware department launched in October 2021.

The arrival of Primark was a response to centre:mk’s customer surveys which had shown Primark to be the most requested store among visitors to the shopping centre.

The store at MK1 opened in 2012.

It is expected the changes will result in around 400 fewer retail managers.

The Primark store at MK1 launched in 2012

Primark, which employs 29,000 staff in total across 191 stores in the UK, expects the consultation to take place over the next couple of months.

Kari Rodgers, Primark retail director for the UK, said: “The changes we’re proposing will deliver a simplified and more consistent management structure across all of our stores, provide more opportunities for career progression and offer greater flexibility.

“We are now focused on supporting our colleagues who are affected by these proposed changes and will be going through the consultation process.”

Details of the job cut plans come as Primark revealed it had seen a hit to its recent trading as the outbreak of the Omicron Covid-19 variant kept shoppers away from stores.

The group said Primark’s UK like-for-like sales were 10% lower in the 16 weeks to 8 January when compared with pre-pandemic levels two years ago, with so-called shopper footfall hit by the rapid rise in Omicron cases.

However, AB Foods said shopper numbers and trading had since improved as Omicron fears ease, adding that like-for-like sales were higher when compared with a year earlier, when stores were shut due to lockdown measures.

Total group-wide Primark sales were 36% ahead year-on-year, it added.

AB Foods said supply chain problems had begun to ease since last autumn, although it is still seeing some delays at ports and with shipments.

The group is offsetting higher costs by slashing store operating costs and overheads.

Primark said it expects sales to be “significantly” higher year-on-year between now and April, now all its stores are open.

The group said: “It is difficult to predict future trading conditions with certainty, but we have seen an encouraging improvement in footfall in the UK and Ireland as the disruption from Omicron reduces.”