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17 tips for shopping at Primark

Love it or loathe it, there's no denying you can pick up some serious bargains at Primark. You just have to make it through the carnage first. This is how to do it.

exterior and interior of Primark next to each other

Credit (left): DennisM2 - Flickr, Credit (right): Martin Monroe - Flickr

Primark certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea. But, its seriously low prices and tendency to stock cheaper versions of high-street looks mean it's always been a student favourite – and understandably so.

One thing any frequent shopper will tell you is that you can't just wander into Primark unprepared. And by 'unprepared' we mean mentally, physically and spiritually. Getting your zen on is the only thing that will get you through.

So, take this guide and go forth. We've got everything from how to find the Primark clearance sale to where to buy Primark clothes online. Don't worry, you can thank us later.

Become a mystery shopper and you could have your weekly Primark shopping trips fully funded (that's the dream, we know).

Primark shopping hacks

These are our Primark shopping hacks to save money and get the best deals:

  1. Find the Primark sale

    The Primark clearance sale is the holy grail of cheap clothes. But bear in mind that you'll need the right skills to find it.

    Despite full-price stock costing less than most other high street stores' reduced items, pretty much every Primark has a section for sale items throughout the year.

    A lot of the time, you'll find that Primark sales include clothes that have been reduced by half or more of their original price, making them ridiculous bargains. But the size of the rail varies depending on what they're trying to get rid of. And they're usually getting shot of it for a reason...

    You might find the rail excruciatingly difficult to find. But, it should be there.

  2. Buy Primark clothes online

    If you're tempted to throw a strop about the long queues, walk out the door and tell yourself you'll order online instead, think again. Primark is pretty much the only high street store that doesn't sell any of its products online – from its own site, at least.

    You can check what items are available in your nearest store on Primark's website, but there's no shopping cart option available. According to Primark's Chief of Finance, this is because online "doesn't work at the lower price point".

    However, it is possible to buy some Primark clothes online from Amazon. So, particularly when you can get free delivery on there, it's well worth having a look.

    It's also worth checking out how much sellers on Depop are charging for second-hand goodies. A lot of the time, people sell Primark clothes online that have barely been worn at half the RRP, so this option is definitely not to be sniffed at.

  3. Know the best times to go shopping at Primark

    old-school clock

    As we've mentioned, Primark attracts quite the crowd. So it's inevitable that it will get busy at peak times – and we mean really busy.

    This is pretty easy to counter simply by shopping at more unusual times. Stay clear of weekends when stores are likely to be particularly busy.

    You can enjoy the calm before the storm by shopping early in the morning.

    Shopping at Primark in the morning also means that you can move on to some less chaotic stores afterwards. This way, you not only beat the crowds, but you also get to check the cheapest shop first to see if they have what you're after.

  4. Check Primark's Instagram before you go

    Checking Primark's Instagram is a great way to scope out what's on offer so you spend less time rooting around when you get there. You might also notice something on one of their posts you would have completely passed by in-store.

    And don't forget, Primark Home has a separate account if you're looking for ideas on how to decorate your room.

  5. Try on Primark clothes in the changing rooms

    You wouldn't buy something from another store without trying it on, so why would you do it in Primark?

    The changing rooms might seem like the pits of hell when there are 50 million people in the queue, but it's worth it. Trust us.

    That is unless you fancy going home, realising nothing actually fits and then having to wait in a returns and exchanges queue that's five times as long as the one for the changing room.

    Or, to avoid the large waiting room queues, you could wear something thin like a vest top and leggings. This way, you can try on clothes on the shop floor without making a scene. And because the thin clothes shouldn't make a huge difference, you'll still get a good idea of how well everything fits.

  6. Look in other Primark departments for cheaper clothes

    colourful shopping bags

    Credit: ConstantinosZ – Shutterstock

    Don't be confined to shopping in the department of the gender you identify most with – there's a whole other section for you to rummage through.

    If you're a woman and looking for an oversized top, the menswear section is a great place to find some Primark essentials, and can often be cheaper.

    Similarly, if you're a guy looking for more slim-fitting clothes, you might be surprised by the good fits you can find in the women's section.

    We've also got tips on how to get the cheapest clothes on ASOS.
  7. Ask for a discount if an item is faulty

    If you pick up an item with a defect (or foundation mark), ask for a discount.

    Primark has been known to give discounts on items with small defects. So, if you see a top with a stain or trousers with a wonky hemline, ask a member of staff if you could buy them for a reduced price. Don't ask, don't get!

  8. Keep your receipts to get refunds

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, given how 'no frills' the Primark experience is, you absolutely have to keep hold of your receipt if you want to get any kind of refund.

    Even if the product is still in its original condition, with all the tags attached, and you only bought it the day before, Primark will not let you return an item without the original receipt (or gift receipt).

    Always ask for the receipt and keep it somewhere safe. Even if you don't want to return an item, there's potential to use your receipt to earn Amazon vouchers.

  9. Go to the department with the shortest queues

    We're warning you now: long queues are pretty much inevitable in Primark. That said, the queues often move more quickly than you might expect. So have faith, you're in capable hands.

    However, if you're keen to get out ASAP, the queues in the men's and children's departments are usually shorter. Check the queues there first, and hope that the rest of the shop hasn't had the same idea.

    Also, count how many members of staff are at each checkout. The more staff at the checkout, the quicker the queue will go down. Generally speaking, checkouts with the most staff are situated on the higher floors, so it's worth doing the rounds before you commit to a queue.

  10. Get ready to rummage through piles of clothes

    Clothes rail

    Credit: New Africa – Shutterstock

    You can get some serious steals at Primark, but let's face it – there's also a lot of nonsense thrown in there too. Who actually wants a red Lion King lipstick? That's right, nobody.

    Don't be put off if all you can find is tat. The gems are there, they're just hiding! Over time, your sifting skills will improve and you'll be a pro before you know it. Make sure you come fully fed and watered so you're ready to get stuck in.

    And don't get drawn into buying all the rubbish just because it's funny. It's really (really!) not worth the money, even if you think it's pretty cheap.

    Starting a new job? Primark isn't the only place you can buy cheap work clothes.
  11. Be prepared for messy clothes aisles and clothes hangers

    As you and everyone else around you will be doing equal amounts of rummaging, the place is likely to look a complete shambles (particularly later in the day).

    With massive waves of people frantically rummaging the stock and throwing cast-offs to the wayside, it's unsurprising that sometimes it all merges into a big pile of mush.

    Don't be put off, though. Instead, treat it like a clothing treasure hunt. Or, better still, help to solve the problem by folding up your own cast-offs. No shop assistant enjoys dealing with this carnage.

  12. Bring a waterproof bag to Primark

    We're not trying to insult your intelligence here, but it's well worth noting that Primark gives out paper bags, not plastic.

    It's a move we're 100% behind (we're all for going plastic-free), but plan ahead if you're heading to Primark on a rainy day. It's best to BYOB (bring your own bag) if you want to make it home without the entire contents spilling onto the puddle-ridden pavement.

  13. Don't buy more than you need

    One of the first things you'll notice about Primark is that they have massive baskets for you to put all your shopping in. Spoiler alert: that's because they want you to buy ALL OF THE THINGS.

    And while the items in your basket might individually be quite cheap, it all adds up until suddenly your Student Loan for the entire month has disappeared.

    Take a minute to collect yourself, go through the contents of your basket before reaching the till and ask yourself if you really need everything in it.

    Fast fashion is extremely detrimental to the planet. Check out our guide to sustainable fashion brands for eco-friendly alternatives.
  14. Don't get overwhelmed in Primark stores


    Credit: Lubo Ivanko – Shutterstock

    It's a universally accepted fact that Primark stores are filled with the rudest crowds of people imaginable (please don't become part of the problem).

    This can make the whole experience quite overwhelming, but don't run away now – there are great deals to be found.

    Just make sure you're mentally ready. A calming smile and a large dose of bargain-hunting determination should see you right.

    Online outlet stores are also great places to find reduced wardrobe essentials.
  15. Don't be afraid to approach staff

    Just because Primark is the queen of respectable bargain shopping on the high street, it doesn't mean you can't turn to staff for help.

    If you're not sure where something is, it's much quicker and easier to ask. After all, you need to get out of that island of £1 underwear before your student bank account self-combusts.

  16. Dress for all seasons

    From our extensive research into the various Primark stores around the UK, there's one thing we've noticed that they haven't quite got down yet: the temperature in the shop.

    We'd recommend you wear a couple of layers which, crucially, can be removed easily (we're thinking hoodies, cardigans, etc.). That way you'll be prepared for the equally high chances of feeling like you've been transported to the Arctic or the Bahamas.

  17. Primark isn't always the cheapest option

    We know we say this in every single article (or at least it feels like it), but don't settle for the prices you find in Primark just because the shop is known for bargains. It's still true that you could find your item cheaper elsewhere if you look hard enough.

    If you think something in the shop is a bit pricey, leave it and do some price checking elsewhere.

    And (as we mentioned previously) if you find that Primark quality is too low for some of the price tags or there's something wrong with items (i.e. there's a stain, discolouration or a small tear), ask for a discount. Don't just tell yourself you should take it as it is because it's so cheap.

Hungry for more shopping tips? Check out these Amazon shopping hacks to find out how to save big.

Jem Collins

WRITTEN BY Jem Collins

Jem Collins, founder of Journo Resources, is an experienced journalist who has written for the i, Metro and more. For Save the Student, she's shared tips on topics related to careers, health, saving money and more.
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