Primark has cancelled all forward orders of clothing as it prepares to lock down its UK stores today amid the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis.
The value fashion chain, unlike most other fashion retailers, has no online operation so there is no way for it to clear any stock during the lock-down, which begins in the UK this evening (22 March).
Primark stores across the US, France, Spain and Italy have already shut their doors to try to contain the spread of the virus. Primark operates around 189 stores in the UK.
Chief executive Paul Marchant acknowledged that the order cancellations would send shockwaves across its factories. “We are deeply saddened that this will clearly have an effect throughout our entire supply chain,” he said.
“We have large quantities of existing stock in our stores, our depots and in transit, that is paid for and if we do not take this action now we will be taking delivery of stock that we simply can’t sell. This is unprecedented action for unprecedented and frankly unimaginable times,” he added.
Stock that is already in warehouses or in transit has already been paid for. It will use a force majeure clause to cancel other orders that have yet to be made.
It joins a growing band of retailers who have already taken the step to close their stores until further notice including: New Look, Arcadia, John Lewis, River Island, Kurt Geiger, Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Liberty and Fenwick. Many independent fashion retailers have also followed suit.
The Government has yet to enforce a shutdown of all non-essential retail but it is widely expected to be the next step in its social distancing strategy. Supermarkets and pharmacies are expected to stay open.
On Friday all pubs, bars, restaurants and leisure destinations, such as spas and gyms, were forced to close.
Marks & Spencer, which is considering the temporary closure of some of its stores revealed on Friday that it had cancelled £100m worth of forward order clothing. The retailer has moved some of its staff from clothing to help support its food operations which will remain open. It is still operating its e-commerce business.
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