Why I love to hate Primark

16 July 2010

Walking along Oxford Street I begin to mentally prepare myself for what inevitably is going to be a traumatic shopping experience. The gleaming blue sign welcomes in shoppers keen for a bargain but nightmares of my last shopping trip to Primark (Primarni or Primarche) are still fresh.

I love getting a good deal, be it from charity shops, vintage markets or jumble sales. However, I’m of the belief that some of their finest ‘bargains’ are a little too good to be true. You might bag an amazing new-season dress, which looks just like it should be from Topshop with a price label only a tenth of the cost, but is it really such a good deal when after two washes it begins to fall apart?

The prices are cheap, but this means the quality can generally be quite bad. I’ve bought countless items from there and while it kept me well supplied throughout my university days, I wouldn’t say it’s great for buying long-lasting staples. You’ll probably just have to re-buy them a month on and end up spending more than you originally hoped.

It’s completely hit or miss. I’ve bought dresses that have lasted years and similarly ones that have shrunk after a few washes into unwearable miniature versions of their former selves.

My best advice is to seek out a quiet and hopefully unknown store and at all costs avoid major city centre branches at the weekend or in lunch hours. When it gets busy the clothes go astray, it’s impossible to find the right size, the temperature rises and the changing rooms are a no-go unless you’ve got 30 minutes to spare queuing.

Be prepared to hunt and always check the labels. If you can bear it, try before you buy, as many of their clothes don’t match other high street sizes, and remember you pay for what you get. It’s perfect for cheap, seasonal bargains. But if you want something sturdy keep in mind to buy cheap is to buy twice.

The larger stores should really only be reserved for hard-core shoppers. The weekend queues can reach into the hundreds and since the shop floor resembles a jumble sale, it becomes impossible to find items.

Despite my promises of abandoning the shop and leaving, which I have done on many occasions, something always pulls me back. Like me, people across the country are still tempted and their profits continue to rise. This summer the company has pulled in shoppers with its £12 floral dresses, leading to like-for-like sales that are estimated to be very close, if not higher, than its rivals.

It can be a hot, stressful, and sometimes scary (there are a lot of aggressive bargain hunters around). But if you’re prepared to fight through the crowds you can usually guarantee you’ll leave with a cheap seasonal outfit in your hand - that’s if you can shove your way back out on to the street.