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AB Foods’ Primark Plans to Open Trial Stores in France This Year

Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Primark, the U.K. discount fashion chain owned by Associated British Foods Plc, plans to open its first stores in France this year as it pushes across Europe.

“We will open some toward the end of the fiscal year, and see how they go,” AB Foods Finance Director John Bason said in an interview. The trial stores could be in busy high-street locations across Paris, he said, placing them in competition with rivals including Hennes & Mauritz AB.

Primark will face a stalling French economy and a jobless total at a 15-year high. The retailer is backing its low prices, smart fashions and stores with in-store video screens displaying the latest collections to gain market share. In addition to H&M, the chain will be competing against Fast Retailing Co. Ltd’s Uniqlo chain, New Look Group Ltd.’s Mim brand, Marks & Spencer Group Plc, French brand Tati and C&A Group stores.

Primark, which today posted a 25 percent gain in first-quarter revenue, opened its first two stores in Austria last year and also added its first outlet in Berlin. The retailer’s store in Saarbruecken, Germany, on the French border, draws shoppers from France, Bason said in an interview last year.

French gross domestic product rose 0.1 percent, half the pace estimated on Nov. 15, statistics institute Insee in Paris said last month. Jobless claims rose for a 19th straight month in November to 3.13 million, the highest since January 1998.

Primark first ventured away from home in 2006 with a store in Madrid. It now has more than 30 Spanish outlets and is also present in Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Austria. The U.K. is its biggest market with 161 outlets.

Founded as Penneys in Dublin in 1969, Primark boosted sales by 15 percent to 3.5 billion pounds ($5.6 billion) in the 12 months ended Sept. 15. The chain accounted for 29 percent of revenue at London-based AB Foods in the year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Shannon in London at sshannon4@bloomberg.net.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Boyle in London at mboyle20@bloomberg.net

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