Primark is starting a trial in 25 stores across north-west England, initially restricted to children’s products only.
The budget chain, which lost more than £1bn in sales during the pandemic when its stores had to close, has succumbed to the online shopping revolution but it is not planning deliveries.
“It’s a milestone for us and a really important moment,” said chief executive Paul Marchant.
“We’re massive fans of bricks and mortar. We believe in stores and we believe in the High Street. We think click-and-collect is the right proposition,” he told the BBC in a rare broadcast interview.
The retailer is hoping that giving customers the chance to shop online and then pick up in store will drive more customers to its shops.
During the pandemic lockdowns Primark’s 190 UK stores were forced to close its doors, and it had no online operation to fall back on.
But Mr Marchant says the High Street now seems buoyant again.
“We feel excited about Christmas. I think we’re really well set. Our stores are feeling busy.
“It’s the first time for three years that customers have been able to come into the store, mask free, restriction free and really enjoy the experience of being in a Primark store.”
Last week Primark’s parent group, ABF, said it would freeze prices for Primark’s clothes beyond what was already planned for this winter, despite rising costs.
As the cost-of-living crisis bites, people have been looking to save money where they can. Supermarkets have seen shoppers swapping out of brands to cheaper, own-label products, while many people have been stocking up on warm clothes to save money on heating.
Primark itself says its snuddie, or oversized hoodie, has been one of its bestsellers so far this winter.
The retailer has defied the wider gloom on the High Street and Mr Marchant says it has picked up new customers because of the cost-of-living crisis.
“I think customers are looking for better value all the time. I think at Primark, we offer them outstanding value. And I think we are attracting new customers as a consequence of that.”
Retail analyst Catherine Shuttleworth, CEO and founder of Savvy Marketing, says Primark is simply bowing to the inevitable:
“Online is a huge commercial undertaking and the logistics for a business with the size and scale of Primark are enormous. Click-and-collect is the most sensible way to run this operation, not least because it allows returns to be placed back into the store stock to help keep costs down,” Ms Shuttleworth says.