Primark founder Arthur Ryan has announced he will stand down in September after nearly 40 years in his post as managing director.
The secretive entrepreneur, known almost as much for his reluctance to appear in the media as his success in business, has presided over the Irish budget fashion chain since its inception as Penneys in 1969.
Paying tribute to the septuagenarian founder in today’s Telegraph, retail headhunting group MBS founder Moira Benigson said Ryan would be sorely missed in the retail industry. “Arthur is... an old-fashioned merchant and sadly there are very few of them left.
“He absolutely understands the customer and the product,” she said.
In recent months, Primark has made headlines as one of the great survivors of the recession, with sales rising by 21% in the 16 weeks to June and like-for-like sales rising by around 8%. In fact, since 1999, when the chain accounted for just 13% of parent group Associated British Foods’ (ABF) profits, Ryan has presided over the growth of the retailer: today, Primark accounts for more than a third of ABF’s profits.
In The Telegraph, retail editor James Hall said some of the chain’s success could be put down to Ryan’s ‘no-nonsense approach’.
“We don’t have annual sales because we don’t hang around waiting for January if we have a problem in October,” Ryan said in an ABF promotional video. “If we don’t like it, we get rid of it.