Primark says ‘safety is highest prioirity’ amid scenes of huge queues in out-of-town shopping centre

Primark has said that safety is the firm’s “highest priority” after images circulated over the weekend of colossal queues outside its premises – which were advertised as being open all night.

By Adam Kula
Sunday, 13th December 2020, 6:38 pm
Updated Sunday, 13th December 2020, 7:22 pm
One of the photos being circulated online, showing crowds at Abbeycentre
One of the photos being circulated online, showing crowds at Abbeycentre

The business issued the statement to the News Letter in the wake of photos and videos from Abbey Centre in north Belfast, where queues were said to have doubled back on themselves to virtually fill the entire shopping centre.

It is clear from footage that many of the people assembled in the queues are not wearing facemasks, and social distancing appeared all-but impossible given the numbers of people.

The Abbey Centre Primark outlet had announced at the end of last week that it would be open from 9am on Friday right through until 6pm on Saturday – a continuous opening time of 33 hours.

There were also queues seen at Primark in central Belfast, but there much of the queueing took place in the fresh air outside, and the city centre store did not remain open throughout the night.

In response to the scenes of packed shoppers at Abbey Centre, a spokeswoman for Primark (which is headquartered in Parnell Street in Dublin) issued the following statement: “Employee and customer safety are Primark’s highest priority.

“We are closely following all government advice at our re-opened stores and have rigorous health and safety measures in place, including a strict social distancing protocol and limits on the number of customers allowed in store, with dedicated Primark employees and security staff on hand to manage queues.

“Our Newtownabbey [Abbey Centre] and Belfast stores are currently open with extended hours in place to help safely reduce queues by spreading shopping hours over a longer period of time.”

There was no response from Abbey Centre itself.

Among the people commenting on the queues online was a Philip Watson (@PhilipWatson_) who said : “Chatting to a pal today who commented on crazy queues for likes of Primark at the Abbey Centre.

“He said, and I can almost quote this: ‘That health minister caused this – he threatened people they may be locked up again at any time so people are rushing their Xmas shopping’.”

Fellow clothing firm NI Classic Shirt Co (@niclassicshirt) said: “Just seen the photos of Primark in Abbey Centre. What the hell is going on?! Surely their stuff isn’t worth risking you and yours’ well being?”

And a Twitter user going by the name Dolly Silver (@SR60053644) summed up her thoughts as follows: “How ridiculous is this?

“Look at the queues for Primark in the abbey centre yet people can’t attend their loved one’s funeral.

“I haven’t got half of my Christmas stuff in, because I’m not willing to jeopardise the R–rate going up. My family mean more to me than a pair of unicorn pyjamas.”

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