Irish fashion retailer Primark has unveiled new expansion plans and is set to open at least four more stores in the UK - including a new Penneys store in Craigavon - which will create around 850 jobs.
The budget retail giant, headquartered in Dublin and a subsidiary of Associated British Foods, said it hopes to see thriving town centres and shopping centres as it pledged to invest £140 million (€163 million) in its UK stores over the next two years.
The announcement comes at a time of significant pressure on the retail sector, with numerous retailers reporting that they have suffered from weakening consumer demand as shoppers cut back on non-essential spending.
But Primark said it is committed to offering customers good value across clothing, beauty and homeware products, and recently pledged to freeze its prices until next autumn.
New stores will be opened in Craigavon, Co Armagh, along with Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, Salisbury in Wiltshire, Teesside Park in Thornaby-on-Tees.
There will also be investment in existing stores, with plans to relocate shops in Bradford and High Wycombe to higher-profile locations, the retailer said.
Refurbishing and upgrading stores in high streets, shopping centres and retail parks form part of the cash injection, including updating the interior decor.
Primark chief executive Paul Marchant said: “The UK is our biggest market and, as we continue to grow and expand our business internationally, we remain as committed as ever to investing in our stores to offer more customers our great value clothing, beauty, homewares and much more.
“Busy towns and cities benefit us all – we want to see thriving high streets and shopping centres where people come together and enjoy spending time.
“Through today’s investment, we’re playing a part in ensuring that UK retail continues to grow and thrive and give people another reason to visit their local high street.”
Primark has increased its in-store outlets in recent years, including beauty studios and cafés opening inside larger city-centre shops.
The business is trialling a click-and-collect service in 25 shops in the North of England and Wales.