The Primarni army: Huge queues at Primark as unlocked UK hits the high street

Joanna Bourke
·3-min read
Shoppers have flocked to malls as shops reopen from lockdown ( Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield)
Shoppers have flocked to malls as shops reopen from lockdown ( Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield)

Millions of shoppers braved the UK’s Arctic April to queue outside fashion stores as firms reopened from lockdown in an encouraging sign for retailers looking to boost sales after a turbulent year.

Pictures and videos of people waiting to get inside some JD Sports and Primark branches, and Selfridges in Oxford Street, were posted on Twitter as new research predicted 1.7 million shoppers will hit stores in the capital today. One tweet said a queue for Primark at Bluewater was “snaking out of the mall”.

New figures show round £94 million is forecast to be spent in London stores on Monday April 12 as non-essential retailers open.

A report, carried out by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR), predicts that 1.7 million shoppers will hit stores in London on the first day of trading since being forced to close on January 5 for the latest national lockdown.

On Saturday April 17 spending is forecast to hit £148 million, with 2.9 million people hitting London stores.

Among Twitter posts showing buyers out in force was one from the Luke Tugby, the editor of Retail Week, who wrote: “The queue for Primark Bluewater is now literally snaking out of the mall and into the car park.”

Primark’s chief executive Paul Marchant, said: “We are expecting a busy few days and have increased opening hours across our stores for the first week initially, to reduce queues and help meet demand safely.”

A number of retail chief executives today told the Evening Standard they were thrilled to finally welcome back customers as they said physical retail remains important to their brands.

Julia Straus at athleisure retailer Sweaty Betty said: “Community has always been at the heart of Sweaty Betty, and whilst we’ve loved being able to connect with our customers virtually over lockdown, we’re so excited to welcome them back into stores. After the last lockdown our customers couldn’t wait to visit our retail teams in person, so we’re anticipating a busy week back.”

Sweaty Betty is among retailers reopening shops from the latest lockdownsweaty betty
Sweaty Betty is among retailers reopening shops from the latest lockdownsweaty betty

Hotel Chocolat’s Angus Thirlwell said: “We have lots of exciting products available and can’t wait for customers to enjoy the Hotel Chocolat experience in store.”

Laura Tenison at JoJo Maman Bebe said: “Our remit is to keep everyone safe whist opening our doors and arms to the huge number of pregnant women and new parents who have yet to experience the benefits of face(mask) to face(mask) advice from real people who are experienced and passionate about offering the best advice and product.”

Linda Pilkington, the owner of Ormonde Jayne Perfumery, said: "I think Londoners cannot wait to get back to the streets and feel that sense of freedom and see our shop doors open. We've contacted all our clients and I know they are raring to go."’s commercial director Angus Drummond, said the firm’s latest report predicts a promising start to the easing of Covid restrictions, and a much needed financial boost for high street stores.

But Drummond cautioned: “With overseas visitors still unable to visit London stores and UK residents living outside of London far less likely to travel in, it's likely that it will be some time until London’s high streets and shopping centres see sales hit pre-pandemic levels.”

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