One of the things that first hits you when shopping on Oxford Street in England is the volume of shoppers. Turnover on Oxford Street, with more than 300 shops on its 1.5 mile length was up 6.2% in the first half of the year and is expected to break 5 billion by the New Years sales. While consumer shopping in the UK was down slightly in the second quarter of the year it is not hard to imagine the elite retailers will pull back the difference, with stores including Selfridges, Debenhams, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer and Primark bringing in consumers from all over the world.
Tills on Oxford Street alone take twice as much as the whole of England’s second biggest city Birmingham — and two-and-a-half times the two Westfield malls.
Putting this in a safety focus, that’s a lot of consumers and team members to keep safe. Primark’s Oxford Street Store employs nearly 1500 team members across their 86 trading hours in Oxford Street, Marble Arch, alone.
When wandering through Primark’s stores the following design and safety considerations immediately stood out to me.
All pegs used for hanging goods are of a thick / high guage metal. This ensures consistency and enables the store to use the pegs to merchandise either light or heavy goods as all pegs are rated to the same weight. The ends of the pegs are rounded and polished. No sharp edges or pinch points.
The modular fixtures used throughout the stores are very efficient in design. The majority of the fixtures on the selling floor consist of a larger central unit with smaller modular pieces that can be added to either side. There is a mixture of configurations seen in stores utilising the two segments. When used in tandem the pieces are secured to one another to prevent movement, and also provide additional support to arms on the smaller units – enabling more stock to be loaded on.
All of the modular fixtures on the selling floor have a wooden base providing stability to the entire fixture, and adding to the polished look. Each of these also have wheels attached with braking mechanisms. The wheels are recessed underneath the unit to prevent the wheel protruding into the aisleway. This prevents customers from tripping on the edges of wheels, clothing / shoe laces becoming caught, etc. Some of the older stores still have a few fixtures around where the wheels aren’t recessed.
Primark stores are big, very big in many cases, ranging up to 14,400m2 in Manchester. Due to this escalators and lifts are prominent. The stores are designed well to enable good movement through the store, Primark are experienced at crowd control after incidents at store openings (more on this later). Escalator landings are used to showcase each floors clothing and style with a large open area before branching off into the department. The escalators also have perspex protection around the hand rails for the first 2 m approx. to prevent persons from getting objects or body parts caught in the escalator mechanisms. This also helps to ensure there is a solid barrier in place around the entrance / exit of every escalator.
Whilst products are reasonably easy to find and there is plenty of stock on the floor there is still an abundance of team members scattered throughout. The majority of these team members duties are purely to recover merchandise and hang/fold clothes. Team members have portable folding trolleys that can be set up nearby a fixture easily.
Another thing that is rarely seen is just how the Primark team get all of this stock onto the shopping floor. The majority of the stores stock work occurs in the late hours of trade or after trade. It is amazing how fast the store can be turned around. After leaving a store in the evening about 6pm and having trouble finding colours and sizes of clothing, I returned the next morning at 10am to be presented with a near new shopping experience. All items were back in stock, ordered by colour and size like opening day again. Occasionally items sell faster than expected and the team do have the ability to move stock during the day – however this is only under exceptional circumstances. Moving stock on Z-rails through the crowds is difficult and slow. While a team member pushes the stock along another team member walks along as a spotter keeping the aisle clear and ensuring the safety of customers.
Overall Primark provides an excellent shopping experience. Not only do they provide excellent products at great prices but they consistently consider the safety of their customers. In later posts I will blog about how Primark avoids stampede’s at their store openings whilst looking at major retail stampedes such as those of Black Friday in New York.
Later this week I will also start providing some commentary on UK retail prosecutions.