Expansion in Europe, particularly the western region, will continue to be a key priority for value fashion retailer Primark in the next few years, the company told just-style today (5 November). 

John Bason, finance director at parent company Associated British Foods (ABF) said: "Our European expansion has been very much a feature of the last year. We increased our selling space in continental Europe by 25%. Over the next few years it will be a focus for our growth."

Bason said Primark will still grow in the UK, where it operates 160 stores in a population of just over 60m. But in Germany, he added, which has a population of 80m, the retailer has ten stores, providing "a feel for where the potential is".

"We [see] western Europe as a focus for our growth over the next couple of years."

The comments came after Primark reported a 44% hike in full-year profit to reach GBP514m (US$825.3m), bolstered by ongoing store expansion in Europe during what it described as an "outstanding" year.

"Primark has never looked as good as it has over the last year in a number of ways," Bason noted. "The buyers did a great job in that autumn-winter, spring-summer ranges really sold through with very, very little markdown. The buyers got it right. They were right on the bubble in terms of fashion and what people wanted to buy."

Bason suggested the company has also remained true to its corporate identity. "Primark has stuck by its low price, best value on the high street credos, even when cotton prices increased. I think that's really paid dividends for us. And the stores are looking great. The new stores that have opened are large, modern and bright. And from the shop windows, the fashionability of the offering, brings all things together.

"Primark has really reinvested value clothing, particularly for young people that are going to Primark - they recognise they are not trading down, they are changing the way they shop."

During the year, adjusted operating profit jumped 44% to GBP514m (US$825.3m) during the 52 weeks to 14 September, compared to GBP256m in the same period last year.

Revenue increased 22% to GBP4.27bn from GBP3.50bn in the prior year period. On a like-for-like basis, sales grew 5%, dampened by two periods of unseasonable weather during the year.

George Weston, chief executive of parent company Associated British Foods (ABF) said: "It was a remarkable year for Primark."

The retailer also said it made significant progress with its ethical trade programme, setting up a team of around 40 in-country ethical trading specialists, of whom eight are located in Bangladesh.

Last month, the company set a timetable to start long-term compensation payments to the 550 workers or their dependants from New Wave Bottoms, its supplier based in the Rana Plaza building.

Commenting on the stellar set of results, Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said Primark was ABF's "jewel in the crown, driving performance over the last year".

"Ongoing expansion at Primark is largely being aimed at budget constrained European consumers, whilst a focus on costs remains central across the company."

With additional reporting by Katy Askew.