Primark’s Global Sourcing for Apparel

About Primark

Primark is one of the largest fashion retailers in Europe, offering something for everyone with a wide selection of products available across womenswear, menswear, kidswear, home, health & beauty, and gifting. It has 384 stores and employs over 70,000 people in the Republic of Ireland, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, France, Italy, Slovenia, Poland, and the US.

As of May 2021, Primark sources from 28 countries working with around 928 contracted factories. Of these factories, 86 percent are Asia-based. Another 10 percent and 4 percent are located in Eastern EU and Western EU countries, respectively. Primark does not own any of these factories, however.

Measured by the number of workers, Primark’s Asian factories are larger than their counterparts in other parts of the world. For example, while Primark’s factories in Pakistan and Bangladesh typically have more than 2,500+ workers, its factories in Western EU countries like the UK, Germany, Italy, and France, on average, only have 64-200 workers. This pattern suggests that Primark mainly uses Asian factories to fulfill volume sourcing orders and its EU factories mostly produce replenishment or more time-sensitive fashionable items. 

Further, reflecting the unique role of the garment industry in creating economic opportunities for women, females account for more than half of the workforce in most garment factories that make products for Primark. The percentage is exceptionally high in developing countries like Myanmar (89%), Sri Lanka (78%), Vietnam (77%), and Cambodia (75%).

Regarding Primark’s China sourcing strategy, on the one hand, Primark sources from as many as 475 suppliers located in China, far more than any other Asian country. However, most of Primark’s China factories are small and medium-sized, and fewer than 1% report having 1,000+ workers. In comparison, more than 75% of Primark’s factories in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Myanmar have 1,000+ workers. This pattern suggests that China plays a more sophisticated role in Primark’s textile and apparel supply chain and is often used to balancing flexibility and agility.

Primark’s Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability team comprises over 120 specialists based in key sourcing countries. The team visits and reviews every supplier factory at least once a year to ensure the factories’ standards align with Primark’s products Code of Conduct.

Every factory that manufactures products for Primark has to meet internationally recognized standards before the first order is placed and throughout the time they work with Primark.

Further reading:

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

4 thoughts on “Primark’s Global Sourcing for Apparel”

  1. Upon analyzing the statistics regarding Primark’s global sourcing of apparel, it is clear that the company has a diversified supply chain. Primark’s mode of sourcing from less economically developed countries promotes economical advancement in these countries, so it is beneficial for both Primark and these suppliers. The statistics show that although most of the least developed countries are in Asia, these countries hold the most power in regards to supplying Primark’s apparel and the number of workers. This is important to note because despite their rank in terms of other factors such as GDP, it is clear that they hold a significant role within Primark’s supply chain. Ultimately, a diversified supply chain is an effective strategy for a large retailer like Primark because it allows certain countries to meet certain needs, such as using European countries for quick turnaround fashion pieces and least developed countries for large orders. This being said, it is evident that Primark relies upon multiple countries to source apparel.

  2. This article is really interesting! It is particularly interesting to hear about Primarks Ethical and Environmental Sustainability team. From both a consumer and an industry perspective, Primark has been known for its less than sustainable and ethical practices. Many consumers have complained about the usage of sweatshops and many consumers even reported finding notes from factory workers in their purchases. However, the implementation of an Ethical and Environmental Sustainability team with over 120 employees could be an indicator that Primarks policies are changing for the better. Especially the fact that, as stated in the article, this team travels to each of Primarks factories at least once a year to ensure that Primark’s code of conduct is being followed. Hopefully, these improvements will continue to be made for the long haul.

  3. In the video, Primark says that their goal is to make clothing affordable to all and to make sustainability compatible with fashion. Their strategy of sourcing shows that they are making an effort to do this. Their business model of little advertising, bulk buying, and lower margin of selling is combined with diversified sourcing from 28 countries, with 86% of their factories in Asia. Sourcing from less developed countries results in a lower production cost, contributing toward their first goal of keeping the clothing affordable, at the same time as providing jobs, contributing toward their second goal of responsible sustainability. In addition to the largest average number of workers per factory being from less economically developed countries, over 2/3 of the workforce in the garments factories in many of those countries are female, contributing not just to overall economic benefit but also opportunities for women. As long as Primark’s ‘Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability’ team can address past concerns and assure fair wages, good working conditions, etc., their global sourcing strategy will meet both goals.

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