23/04/2014 06:00 BST | Updated 23/04/2014 06:59 BST

Primark Aims To Crack America As Profits Soar

Dave Thompson/PA Wire
File photo dated 18/03/11 of Primark in Manchester city centre as Primark has revealed "excellent" Christmas trading today as the discount chain maintained its squeeze on struggling rival Marks & Spencer.

Primark is to open stores in the United States for the first time as it looks to replicate the success behind a 26% jump in profits in the last six months.

The retail chain, which has 269 stores covering nearly 10 million square feet of selling space across Europe, expects its first US shop will begin trading in Boston, Massachusetts, towards the end of next year.

Negotiations are under way to open further stores in the north east of the country in 2016, while it is also planning warehousing in the region.

The United States has been a notoriously tricky market for UK retailers to crack, with Tesco and Marks & Spencer among those to experience failure.

Primark, which is part of Associated British Foods, will look to build on its continued strong performance in Europe after its sales rose 14% to £2.3 billion in the 24 weeks to March 1, leading to a 26% rise in profits to £298 million.

Darren Shirley, a retail analyst at Shore Capital Stockbrokers, described the half-year performance as stunning and significantly above his expectations.

Shares in AB Foods, whose operations cover sugar, agriculture, retail, grocery and ingredients, opened 7% higher today. With its portfolio of kitchen cupboard brands such as Ryvita, Ovaltine and Silver Spoon sugar also doing well, the group's profits rose 4% to £468 million in the half year.

Primark's expansion in the UK has been focused on increasing selling space in major cities, with the opening of its second store in London's Oxford Street and extensions to shops in Newcastle and Manchester.

It expects to add more than a million square feet of space in the current finanncial year, having opened its first stores in France in Marseille and Dijon. Three new UK stores in the second half include a relocation in Cardiff.

The new store in Boston will be in the Burnham Building, which is currently being renovated, at Downtown Crossing, in the heart of the city. The site was previously home to Boston's famous Filene's department store.

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