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« A Pop Up with Purpose | Main | Hey U.S., Are You Ready For #PRIMANIA? »

A Look Inside the New Primark King of Prussia Megastore, From The Perspective of a 16-year Old

Image © Kathleen Jordan

The Irish have landed in Pennsylvania. Today Primark opened its 2nd store in America at the King of Prussia mall. As the design team, we were invited to share in the private opening event prior to the grand opening to the public. Breege O'Donoghue, Group Director Business Development & New Markets, made the opening remarks, inaugurating the 103rd store of the 46 year old chain. The Irish Ambassador to the U.S., Anne Anderson, was on hand to fete the new flagship store and congratulate the Dublin-based retailer. She recounted shopping at the first Primark store, then called Penneys, back in Dublin in 1969 at the age of 17. She said that even then it offered fashionable clothes at affordable prices, which she and her friends greatly appreciated as young university students with meager means.

I brought my 16 year old daughter to the opening, so she can see what her mom does for a living, and for the opportunity to be among the first to shop the new U.S. Prototype developed by our team for the King of Prussia flagship. Her initial reaction as we approached the grand glass façade, alive with integrated digital graphics, was: "it's so fancy."

Image © Kathleen Jordan

We proceeded to shop the approximately 90,000 square foot sales area in the space of time in between the opening ceremony and opening the doors to the public. She tried on many pairs of shoes, and as she did she remarked of the custom designed shoe banquette: "I like how the couch has these little button things." The beauty is in the details!

Image © Kathleen Jordan

We continued to traverse the store from department to department. We stumbled upon the layout bar, which is replete with recharge outlets, at which she exclaimed: "Oh, a charging station. How cute is that. Let's lay stuff out here." While assessing our “haul” we were approached several times by staff offering assistance. Not your typical experience in a fast fashion competitor, or a discount competitor. The difference struck my daughter as exceptional, noting that "their staff are really nice and seem always eager to help."

Image © Kathleen Jordan

Of the store environment itself, the design team worked closely with the client to design a store that feels special to its customers, that doesn’t conform to the established norm of plain interiors for value retail. The client prides itself on distinctively designed environments, and believes in heavy integration of lifestyle visual merchandising as well as highlights of the ad campaigns. Our team created what’s called the Digital Roundabout, designed to landmark the heart of the store while creating a dynamic fashion-focused display. The concerted effort to elevate the atmosphere was picked up on by my daughter, who offered this about the retail environment: "The store is modern with a touch of edgy, and the layout is spacious, doesn't feel cluttered." Perhaps she’s a little more aware of these things because of what her mom does for a living, and maybe not. But even the employees seem delighted by the new store environment. The sales associate in Lingerie said to me: "This is my department, and I like to just walk around and look at it. It's so fun."

Image © Kathleen Jordan

I found it astonishing that the story related by the Irish Ambassador was as relevant today as it was back then. As designers, we advocate that our clients be true to their brand point of view, be authentic, and develop an atmosphere reflective of their culture. As a brand establishing itself in a new market, I think Primark has raised the bar for fast fashion retailers and value retailers alike. Primark makes it a priority to delight their customers with an experience-laden environment as well as quality products at affordable prices. And while my daughter stocked up on basics and trend pieces alike, the ugly Christmas sweaters were the biggest hit of all - she gave them an “A-plus.” No competing with that! We wish Primark the best of luck with the invasion!

Kathleen Jordan
Kathleen Jordan is a principal in Gensler’s New York office, and a leader of our retail practice with over 24 years of experience across the United States and internationally. Kathleen has led a broad range of retail design projects as both an outside consultant and as an in-house designer. She has led projects from merchandising and design development all the way through construction documentation and administration, and many of her projects have earned national and international design awards. Contact her at kathleen_jordan@gensler.com.

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