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Sample Undergraduate 2:1 Marketing Literature Review Service

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The Evolution of Marketing Strategies Used by Fashion Retailer Primark

1. Introduction

1.1. The Emergence of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion arose following a series of events. Firstly, globalisation of production, supply and trade allowed new principles of sourcing and operations, which are often deemed as unethical and destructive to the global job market (Fernie and Perry, 2011; Jones, 2006; Bruce et al., 2004; Auchter, 2015). Throwaway fashion grew in popularity, in line with the trends of consumerism and self-expression through fashion (Sudbury and Böltner, 2011; Filieri, 2015). Information abundancy, following digitalisation, combined with the aftermath of the global recession increased the price consciousness of consumers, transforming them into impulsive ‘bargain’-hunters (Christopher et al, 2004; Runfola and Guercini, 2013).

Thus, fast fashion operates under the following principles (see Tokatli, 2008; Ferdows et al., 2004; Dunford, 2006; Christopher et al, 2004):

  • High number of owned stores and market risk-factor analysis
  • Information systems for trend-spotting, disconnecting design decisions and the consumer
  • Rapid prototyping, quick development and exclusivity, achieved through limited offer
  • Flexible and adaptive supply chain

Technology progression and demand further urged companies to become omni-present, enhance responsiveness and provide digital sale touchpoints (Mohr, 2013; Manikonda et al, 2015; Rowley, 2009). Fast fashion retailers now race towards obtaining maximum synchronicity and synergy between information, production and supply, and in doing so replacing consumer values of exclusivity, lifestyle expression through apparel and originality with ‘massclusivity’ and ‘planned spontaneity’ (Tokatli, 2008; Reinach, 2005).

1.2. Case of Primark: The low-cost fast fashion retailer

Originally and currently still so in Ireland - Penneys launched in 1969, prior to launching as Primark in the UK in 1973 (Primark, 2018). Primark attracts price conscious consumers, regardless of their social status, lifestyle or age (Easey, 2009) and is witnessing great success in popularity amongst its target market (Millennials) (Ratcliff, 2014).

1.3. Structure.

The following piece will attempt to systematically review, structure and analyse literature, which has partially or in full studied the marketing strategies, deployed by the fashion retailer Primark. Initially, an indication of the methodology used will be provided, followed by a presentation of key studies and a discussion of the strategies, adopted by the organisation, in section 3. Finally, managerial implications will be discussed in line with the results of the review.

2. Method

The research methodology has been primarily influenced by the limitations of time and length of the written piece, which has influenced the scope. Consequently, the articles discussed have been selectively included based on relevance to the topic, qualitative study design and type of publication - journal articles. Identification of relevant literature occurred through Google Scholar’s Search Engine and Emerald Insight’s database, as well as identification of studies from reference lists of the articles examined. Selection was assessed upon examination of the extent of which the unique characteristics of the organisation Primark were considered in the context of the respective studies. All information has been obtained lawfully through secondary research and is reported with respect to the accredited authors. 

3. Results and Discussion of Findings

The results from the inquiry have been diverse in terms of research focus and while some focus entirely on Primark as a case study organisation (see Arriaga et al, 2017; Jones et al, 2009), with others, it has been a discussion point and an example, used to illustrate findings.

3.1. On Supply Chain Management

In terms of supply chain management, the method used by Primark is discussed in two studies to be Quick Response (QR) (Lin and Parlaktürk, 2012), or most recently, following the globalisation of its business - Global Quick Response (GQR) (MacCarthy, and Jayarathne, 2010), as it provides flexibility with regards to response time and production demand. Another way to gain control over demand is through denial of e-commerce. By doing so, the company encourages frequent visits to its stores and one-stop volume shopping (Doherty and Ellis-Chadwick, 2010). Ziskind et al.’s (2011) study concludes it maintains an average store turnaround of six weeks. From a consumer’s perspective the commodification of fashion, low quality apparel and quickly obsolete trends encourages frequent disposal and further purchasing (Ko and Megehee, 2012), creating a consumption cycle, which further benefits fast fashion retailers.

Barnes and Lea-Greenwood’s (2010) explorative qualitative study illustrates that the retail environment in the fast fashion industry is not as responsive as the supply chain and opportunities for profit maximisation are often missed due to issues of display, staffing or service.

3.2. On Corporate Communication, Social Media and PR Management

Study

Topic

Method

Research Design

Case organisation

Key Takeaway (reference of results to the case of Primark)

Dach and Allmendinger, 2014.

Corporate sustainability communications

Qualitative

Website analysis

Consumer Interviews

H&M & Primark

No added value due to lack of consumer awareness. Primark Sustainability section perceived as honest, credible trustworthy, easily accessible.

Arriaga et al., 2017.

Interaction between Primark and its Facebook Fans

Qualitative

Passive (non-participatory) Netnography

Primark

Missed Opportunities on behalf of the brand in terms of interaction and engagement with consumers online

Jones et al., 2009.

Online Corporate Reputation

Qualitative

Non-participatory analysis of online sources

Primark

Primark relies on online groups and eWOM to defend its reputation. Need of two-way communication, reputation management and relationship marketing.

Table 1. Key Studies on Communication, Social Media and PR for Primark

Dach and Allimendinger’s (2014) study shows that contrary to the common understanding of the unethical practices of production and sourcing that the company is often accused of, which presumably ought to impact consumer perception of their sustainability index, their website provides assurance, clarity and honest intentions of the matter, indicating a successful website corporate communication strategy.

The situation is different in terms of social media. Online communities have primarily handled events of PR crisis, where there was a lack of corporate response towards accusations for the ethical treatment of workers. Such situations have given proponents of the brand an opportunity to defend the organisation and mitigate negative effects of bad publicity (Jones et al., 2009). Until recently, The Primark Appreciation Society – a customer-started collaboration group with over 100 000 ‘advocates’ was considered a marketing strategy achievement, as it showed a conquer of social media without any direct investment (Harries and Rae,2009; Richardson and Gosnay, 2010). Authors have speculated the clear positioning ‘looking good at a low price’ and maintaining this business model are crucial to this outcome (Rowley, 2009; Memic and Minhas, 2011; Zhou et al, 2015).

The behaviour of members of Primark’s following arguably shows evidence of brand tribalism. Literature suggests an explanation of why this would occur, namely consumption being partially motivated by the feeling of unity and belonging to a social group (Ruane and Wallace, 2015; Gabrielli et al., 2013). As apparel is a high-involvement purchase, linked to identity and carrying social risk, it naturally attracts conversations online (Gu, Park, & Konana, 2012); the motivation of which is advice seeking, interaction, brand and fashion involvement (Wolny and Mueller; 2013). With these conversations already taking place, Arriaga et al. (2017) and Jones et al.’ s (2009) studies suggest the company can benefit from engaging with its consumers and managing its reputation online, as until recently it relied entirely on electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM).

3.3. On Consumer Behaviour

Study

Topic

Method

Research Design

Case organisation

Key Takeaway (reference of results to the case of Primark)

Delgado-Ballester and Fernandez Sabiote, 2015

Brand Experiential Value Versus Brand Functional Value

Qualitative

Interviews

N/A, Primark part of research sample as non-experiential brand

Experiential Value is regarded higher in terms of contribution towards brand equity and can assist positive WOM. Can also be achieved through a sense of community.

Ross and Harradine, 2010.

Consumer behaviour towards Value Brands

Qualitative, Exploratory

Wearer Trials for Jeans

Focus Groups

N/A; Tesco for the Jeans Trial

Shows increasing acceptability to value brand clothing and one-stop shopping. Consumers are more likely to mix fast fashion (such as Primark) with premium fashion

Ponsford, 2014.

Consumer Behaviour of Young Mothers and their Toddlers

Qualitative, Fieldwork

Participant Observation

Focus Groups

Photo elicitation exercise

N/A

Primark is seen suitable for ‘basic’ products, avoided for high-involvement purchases, that indicate social status (such as trainers) as can be perceived as shameful.

Table 2. Key Studies on Consumer Behaviour for Fast Fashion

Consumer behaviour has been found to be a comparatively unattended field research-wise, specifically for the fast fashion industry (Bhardwaj and Fairhurst, 2010). The literature on consumer behaviour confirms the above discussed strategy of in-store shopping encouragement, as experiential value assists positive word-of-mouth and increases the brand’s equity (Delgado-Ballester and Fernandez Sabiote, 2015). The studies further illustrated in Table 2. suggest that although a societal stigma existed for disposable fashion, consumer culture is changing towards acceptance.

4. Managerial Implications

Primark’s strategic performance has shown consistency throughout the analysis, which has benefitted the organisation, granting it stability and gradual progression through a dynamically evolving and competitive industry. Insights in consumer behaviour towards the brand and motivations in participation in word-of-mouth have been provided, allowing strategists to enable relevant features of the corporate digital presence for enhancing this form of marketing. Although the lack of involvement in e-commerce is illustrated to be an advantage for the organisation, it is speculated a greater corporate involvement in social media engagement can enhance the brand equity.

5. Future Research Directions

The carried-out research, although limited in scope, was challenged in obtaining literature analysing the international market penetration strategies, deployed by Primark. This is suggested as a future research direction as it will allow a comprehensive understanding of the organisation through incorporating the findings of supply chain operation, digital and corporate communication strategies discussed above with an understanding of the management of retail environments abroad. Most importantly, such research can assist to highlight behavioural differences of consumers and international perception of the brand.

This dissertation will have a mixed approach. Primary research will be collected using interviews and surveys.

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