Berliners shrug off ethical worries to storm new Primark store

Thursday 03 July 2014 14.35
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Taoiseach Enda Kenny opens new Primark store in Berlin
Taoiseach Enda Kenny opens new Primark store in Berlin
Queues outside Primark's new store in Berlin
Queues outside Primark's new store in Berlin

Thousands of bargain hunters flocked to a new Primark store in the heart of Berlin today despite a protest by campaigners demanding the retail chain improves conditions in the factories that produce its cheap tops and jeans. 

Primark, owned by Associated British Foods, is accelerating the pace of its expansion in Europe, where it already has 274 stores.

In April, it announced it would open its first US store in Boston towards the end of 2015. 

Primark, which opened its first store in Dublin in 1969 under the name Penneys and launched in Germany in 2009, has grown rapidly during the economic downturn in Europe due to its rock-bottom prices and fast-changing fashions. 

However, it has also drawn criticism for conditions in the factories of its suppliers, especially since more than 1,100 people died last year in the collapse of a plant in Bangladesh ,where clothes were made for brands including Primark. 

Primark's success is squeezing margins at Sweden's budget chain H&M, which is also trying to improve its reputation for ethical standards, particularly in its biggest market Germany, where shoppers are particularly sensitive to environmental issues and labour rights. 

However, those concerns were ignored today by thedesire to snap up T-shirts for €3 and skinny jeans for €7, as thousands of shoppers lined up hours before the store opened. 

The new store is Primark's 13th in Germany, and it has set its sights on eventually opening more than 100 in the country, which is already home to more than 400 H&M stores. 

Taoiseach Minister Enda Kenny, who cut a ribbon to open the new store before shoppers stormed the store, said he was proud of Primark's success and convinced by its commitment to ethical standards. 

"The queues outside certainly show the strength of Primania across Germany and across Europe," he told staff.