A New Department Store Opens at Our SI Mall
By: Lucia Rossi
If you dream of a student budget-friendly department store that is fashionable, has humanitarian-like values, and is spreading worldwide, then look no further than Primark.
If you have never heard of Primark, think of it as Five Below on steroids.
Primark is one of Europe’s largest retailers and is relatively new to the U.S, especially for Staten Island since it will be one of its first ten stores.
To prepare for the mall’s opening on March 16, I visited the Primark in Freehold, New Jersey, to see what exactly we should expect.
This Dublin, Ireland-based store is different from department stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom, Sears, Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor’s.
The store is generally one floor, simple in its design, without any huge signs or ads. There are small sections for women, men, children, home and beauty. It’s easy to navigate.
The first thing you may notice are the unbelievably low prices. You may be quick to think everything in the store is just cheap quality, but really, they just make smart business decisions.
The company has several explanations for how they’re able to offer the lowest prices.
Their website claims that they “prefer to let customers do the talking.” The company depends on social media and word-of-mouth advertising. No big ad campaigns here, which saves them a lot of money to better serve customers.
With over 6 million followers in their global fan base, I’d say they’re doing quite well with this strategy.
They also make large orders from their retailers in high volume, so the result of the low markups can be transferred to the cost saving of customers.
Efficiency is important to Primark. They use local fabrics, so that they can save money on transportation.
I spoke with an employee named Carolyn who will be training newcomers in our Staten Island store.
She said a way the company keeps the prices low is by only ordering from one warehouse which makes the ordering process easier.
Primark also takes pride in protecting their workers in store, and in factories, with fair wages. The company claims to take the issue very seriously:
“Our programs aim to help workers have better livelihoods, from earning a fair wage and knowing their rights at work, through managing a household budget and saving money effectively,” says the Our Ethics section of their website.
Every factory is carefully inspected and employees are offered a competitive starting pay of $12.50 per hour.
Sue Hoffman, vice president of People & Culture for Primark’s U.S. division, said that the Staten Island store will open with about 200 employees.
Primark shows their humanitarian side with their partnership through the non-profit organization K.I.D.S/Fashion Delivers to whom they donate their unsold clothing to.
They also started the “CottonConnect program,” which aims to teach thousands of female farmers about how to better grow cotton. The program teaches ways of conserving water, handling good and bad insects, and increasing the profit margin.
“Primark is very against child labor,” said Carolyn. According to their website, Primark has auditors who inspect their suppliers and aim to teach suppliers on the importance of child education rights.
Ethics aside, the store takes getting used to because the sizes for women are not labeled as small, medium, large. Everything is labeled using a numeric system that lists sizes from different countries.
For the US sizes, Carolyn explained that a 2/4 is a small, 6/8 is medium, 10/12 is large and 14/16 is extra-large. It doesn’t seem clear on how well Primark caters to plus size women.
If you’re curious about the store’s styles of clothes, it’s generally plain and universal to everyone’s taste. There aren’t many outlandish prints, patterns, or elaborate fabrics.
“If you really love makeup, you should try out the store’s brand of lip liners because they are really long-lasting,” Carolyn suggested. “I wear it all day and they’re only $1.50.”
The employees at this location were knowledgeable, friendly and approachable. I can only hope our Staten Island store will be so lucky.