#TOTPU: Primark promotes people and planet wellness at Boxpark

Fashion retailer Primark has spent the last two weeks promoting its new product range at its first ever pop-up store.

After 51 years of retailing, Primark opened its inaugural pop-up premises, at Boxpark in London’s Shoreditch, last month. Located within a 30-second walk from Shoreditch High Street Overground station, the store will disappear again at the end of this week.

What, where, when?

Open since 18 February, Primark Wellness – or #Primarkwellness to give it its fascia title – takes up units 37-41 of the ground floor retail space at Boxpark Shoreditch in east London. It is 1,500 sq ft in total, and includes changing facilities, a point of sale (PoS) area, and new brand messaging.

The retailer is using the pop-up to promote its new 80-strong wellness range, which includes cotton robes, a soy-wax blend candle, and duvet sets. All products in the collection are made using either organic cotton, recycled materials, or sustainable materials, or they encourage shoppers to put their personal wellbeing first.

The Boxpark pop-up will close on 8 March, but its footprint remains in the form of Wellness areas in 11 Primark stores across the UK and Republic of Ireland, and edits from the range in circa 200 Primark stores across the globe.

Good and well: a look inside Primark's Shoreditch pop-up
Good and well: a look inside Primark's Shoreditch pop-up

Standout features

During Essential Retail’s visit, the obvious standout feature of the space was it clearly marked a distinct change of strategy for Primark, in several ways.

Aside from the fact it was a hosting a substantial new range of products, the space was also a long way from the jumble sale aisles that so many of Primark's popular city centre and retail park sites can become on a busy Saturday. Much like the overall aim of the inventory in stock, the store exuded a feeling of calm – perhaps helped by the predominately white and neutral coloured items lined up throughout this miniature shop.

There was limited technology in the store – a sole PoS terminal and single NCR till was all that we could spot, but what was in abundance was Primark’s messaging around sustainability, recycling and ethical trading. It’s a retailer that has often come under scrutiny for its supply chain practices – and fast fashion by its very nature is not particularly environmentally friendly – but this is a serious attempt by Primark to bring about some positive change.

The design of the fit-out uses Forest Stewardship Council-certified wooden fixtures and cardboard hangers, as well as recyclable display panels, in line with the principles of the Wellness range showcased.

What the retailer says…

A spokesperson for the retailer told us: “At Primark, we are always looking for new ways to excite and engage our customers.

“The pop-up store, which was Primark’s first, was a great way for us to launch our new Wellness collection and is performing very well.”

The arrival of the pop-up and the Wellness range falls under the ‘Primark Cares’ initiative, which the retailer says is its commitment to being a responsible retailer and offering more products made using more environmentally-friendly materials.

There are no immediate plans for any further pop-up premises in the UK.

The Essential Retail verdict

A key reason for launching Essential Retail’s Top of the Pop-Ups series was to explore the increasing and varied use of temporary pop-up space, and the Primark Wellness shop is very different to others we’ve visited so far.

Whereas Boots’ Boutiques at the end of 2019 focused on getting consumers into a new frame of mind during Christmas gifting season, and Shoe Zone’s Black Friday London site enabled the footwear retailer to introduce its customers to online influencers and build its brand, Primark’s pop-up is very much product marketing-led.

A dedicated space to a new range is an impactful way of telling consumers that new products will be on sale in permanent premises around the globe.

The focus on sustainability and wellness is obviously very much on trend, too. With concerns growing about the health of the planet and people’s mental wellbeing, the Shoreditch space gives Primark a chance to highlight its credentials in these areas.

Primark hasn’t yet revealed the number of shoppers to have visited the pop-up, but shop staff told us it was popular in week one, only for the second week to see reduced footfall. The rainy weather that week might have had something to do with that, and when Essential Retail visited, twice either side of a stretched-out Thursday lunch at one of Boxpark’s fresh food eateries upstairs, it was very quiet.

Whether running a pop-up for the Wellness range results it better-than-otherwise sales for the range as a whole will be difficult to measure – this type of marketing tactic always is. But where, we feel, Primark gains most is through its deployment of existing staff in the pop-up.

In the Boots pop-up in London’s Soho, and the Glossier pop-up in the same city’s Covent Garden area, staff were not employees of those companies. They were recruited from agencies, with many of them writers and actors by trade – not retailers.

For Primark, though, staff from its London Tottenham Court Road shop and other sites were tasked with manning the aisles of the east London pop-up, and that will give them a headstart and familiarity with products as the new range appears in permanent stores. There will be learnings they can take back to the business based on real-life customer reactions to what represents a new and eye-catching path for Primark.

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