The opening of the first Primark store in the Czech Republic garnered much attention in both social and news media. But those who waited in line for hours on Wenceslaus Square found much more than clothing by the famous Irish brand – they also found a retail store with a modern interior featuring a clean design within an entirely new building, which has revitalized the upper part of the massive city square after years of stagnation. The team behind the new store was multinational: the store and Primark’s administrative facilities are the work of the London-based firm ILD:Architecture; the general contractor for the project was the Irish company John Sisk & Son Ltd.; and the doors for both the retail and the administrative spaces were supplied by SAPELI Unlimited, which in only three months manufactured and installed all 80 doors precisely to the requirements of the Irish chain.
The doors by SAPELI Unlimited are found in the retail section of the building as well as in the store’s utility and office spaces. The design of the doors and all the required solutions were strictly stipulated by the investor and are based on Primark’s global standards for design, functionality, and the safety of customers and employees. The task of SAPELI Unlimited was to fulfil these requirements while respecting the specific conditions of the Czech market and Czech legislation, namely in regard to fire-rated doors, whose installation in the store’s utility and office spaces presented a considerable challenge. By contrast, in the retail spaces emphasis was placed on having the doors blend into their surroundings; for example, the access doors to the window displays are set in concealed frames that lie flush with the wall. In the utility areas, the priority was durability and functionality, so various types of kick plates and push plates were used in combination with electric door openers. Certain elements, such as special handles and locks, were sourced by SAPELI Unlimited directly from Great Britain, as the door opening and locking systems were precisely defined by the investor.
Primark’s satisfaction with the level of quality is reflected in the fact that the Irish chain and its general contractor are considering SAPELI Unlimited for other projects in the Central European region, such as the company’s first store in the Slovak capital of Bratislava, which is currently in the preparation phase.
And where does Primark currently have a presence, and what are its plans for continued expansion? We asked Eric Paul, the manager of the new Prague store:
What countries is Primark active in?
The Czech Republic, where Primark opened its first store in June, is the fourteenth market that our chain has entered to date. The group currently has stores in Ireland, Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Slovenia, Poland, the USA, and now the Czech Republic too.
The Prague store is your first in the Czech Republic. What are your plans here, and what can your customers look forward to?
Our fantastic new store offers 4,600 square metres of retail space on three floors and is a showcase for the latest trends in fashion for women, men, and children, including footwear, accessories, lingerie, cosmetics, and household goods. The shopping experience is made more pleasant with free Wi-Fi and seating areas with charging stations for telephones and laptops.
The Czech Republic is an important new market for us, as we have an ambitious growth plan for Central and Eastern Europe. The opening of our first store in the Czech Republic represents another milestone in our expansion in the region.
The Prague store is the 396th in the Primark chain. In Central and Eastern Europe, it joins stores in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and two in Poland in the cities of Warsaw and Poznań. The company is preparing to open another new store in Slovakia as well as a third store in Poland. In the Czech Republic, the next Primark store is coming next year to the Olympia shopping mall in Brno.
What impact did the pandemic have on the opening of the new store and your plans in the Czech Republic?
The grand opening of our new store in Prague had to be postponed several times due to the pandemic. We had originally planned the opening for 2020, but with the restrictions in place, it was eventually moved back to June of this year. We are certain, however, that we’ve created a safe environment for our customers and our colleagues.
As the investor, did you have any special requirements in choosing subcontractors? Did you, for instance, prefer local contractors?
We always try to work with local contractors. We want to rely on companies with local backing, a good knowledge of the market, and the ability to supply materials and construction technologies. This allows us to offer eco-friendly solutions and reduce our carbon footprint. And collaborating with local companies on the design of our stores helps ensure their remarkable popularity.
The Flow Building is situated on Wenceslaus Square, and besides its amazing location, the building is also very environmentally friendly. Is that one of the reasons you chose it?
Having the store on Wenceslaus Square gives us an amazing opportunity to be right in the heart of Prague’s main shopping and lifestyle scene.