Primark remains a shining bright spot on the high street

Picture: Getty
Picture: Getty
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The budget fashion chain, which has 158 of its 244 stores in the UK, grew operating profits by 15 per cent to £356 million in the year to 15 September, parent company Associated British Foods (ABF) said.

Like-for-like sales grew 3 per cent, with UK trading “particularly strong” in the summer and Europe still buoyant despite tough economic conditions in Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

Nineteen stores were opened in the year and a further 12 will have opened in time for Christmas, including a second store in Austria, while Primark plans to complete the expansion of its city centre stores in Manchester and Newcastle by the spring.

The firm, which has doubled annual sales in the past five years, employs more than 43,000 people.

ABF, which also owns British Sugar as well as household brands Kingsmill, Ryvita and Twinings, said adjusted operating profits topped the £1bn mark for the first time, up 17 per cent on last year at £1.08bn.

Chief executive George Weston said: “Global economic uncertainty remains but we have opportunities for further investment.”

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said: “In a world economy struggling for much growth, particularly on an inflation-adjusted basis, we see this as a commendable performance and a vindication of the broadly-based consumer business model of the group.”

The group proposed a final dividend of 20p per share, to be paid on 11 January, taking the total for the year to 28.5p, an increase of 15 per cent over the previous year’s payout.