It’s midnight on the first day after closing and the hustle and bustle of Primark proves that holiday shopping is back in the cards, no matter what time of day.
The nonessential retailer was forced to close its doors in England on November 5 in accordance with coronavirus restrictions. And since their products cannot be purchased online, fans were left sighing for their precious, low-priced purchases.
But, as a special treat, on December 2, the store opened its doors for 24 hours.
So it is perhaps no surprise that even in the middle of the night there is a buzz of shoppers eager to get your last minute deals.
The lines are filled with cozy knitted hats and scarves, sparkly sweaters and elf costumes, all set for a Christmas night (as long as it’s before 11pm).
And there are even horns for sale, to wear while teasing your Scotch egg and sipping mulled wine.
Paul Marchant, CEO of Primark, said: “We are delighted to reopen our stores in England on December 2nd, with longer shopping hours to give our customers more time to safely shop for the holidays.
“We have everything our customers expect this season from Primark, including our famous Christmas jumpers, holiday pajamas and much, much more.”
A total of 11 branches remained open 24 hours, from 7 am on December 2.
We visited the store in Westfield, Stratford City, in the middle of the night to see if consumers were exchanging their beds for baskets.
Outside in the frigid December air, shoppers Doina Nica, 27, and her brother Aureliu, 24, from Moldova, bought new pillows and gifts to send home for Christmas.
Aureliu says: “We saw that Primark was open for 24 hours on the news and Facebook and we thought we would come to Westfield. We arrived so late because I am a civil engineer and finished the job at 9pm.
“I thought it would have been busy because it’s the first day after closing, but it was good.”
Adds Doina: “There are so many staff members who go out of their way and keep things neat and orderly, so we found what we needed easily. There were disinfectants and everything and the distancing was fine.
“But in the queue there was no distance of 2 meters and some people were not wearing masks. But we just have to keep a distance where we can.
Figen Akgul, 33, also stayed up late to go shopping. But the experience left her disappointed.
She says: “I bought some pajamas but I was disappointed because all they were selling was lounge clothes. Although we can’t dress up to go out, it’s good to keep that spirit.
“I’ve never been to Primark this late before. I didn’t think he was busy though. I came earlier in the day and it wasn’t busy and it’s not busy now.
“It’s a waste of time to keep it open all night, especially after 1 or 2 in the morning, as there are not so many people. It would be great if all the Westfield stores stayed open as it would be very nice and lively this time of year. But it is very boring at the moment.
Meanwhile, Amazon delivery driver Saffa went to Primark immediately after a busy day at work to buy some clothes.
She says: “I came here so late because I just finished work, it has been very busy after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I was a little excited to go shopping so late. I finish work late, so I would like them to stay open late more often.
For some, the store that was open all night meant that there was also the possibility of shopping alone.
Jaylon Diante, 21, did some Christmas shopping and bought socks and T-shirts. He says, “I went at night because I thought it would be quieter than shopping during the day.”
And sisters Asia Tarout, 40, and Amina Rahman, 39, just went to “laugh” and buy pajamas.
Unsurprisingly, the rest of the mall is a ghost town and is a bit haunting to say the least.
The bars and restaurants were closed by the time we arrived at 11pm and most of the other shops closed their doors even earlier.
But Primark has brought a whole new meaning to the phrase night shopping.
Prepared for an onslaught of customers, countless shop assistants move through the aisles. Some are leaning against the box and all seem to need a good night’s sleep.
Yet the queue still snakes through the store, and although it’s freezing outside, a nervous shopper announces, “Sweat is dripping off.”
But it’s easy to see why shoppers are so interested in buying their purchases at a reduced price.
Even children have been allowed to stay up to go shopping at midnight, while a girl runs up to her mother in a dress, smiling: “That’s my mommy size.”
The only empty section of the store can be found among the rows of men’s clothing.
Instead, people are looking for festive finds, including Mickey Mouse pajamas in sizes that fit the whole family, a gingerbread house kit, and even Christmas dog outfits.
The store’s pajama area was also particularly busy, as customers flocked to see the comfortable wool and cotton designs.
It’s hard not to smile at the familiarity and hopefulness of the cheery decorations as friends joke about the Grinch-themed sweaters.
For a moment, it seems that 2020 is just a normal year… and that 12 am is a normal time of day to shop.
Main Street may be in desperate trouble as a result of the pandemic, but Primark is certainly determined to maintain its place in the hearts of consumers across the country.
And, since the store maintains a constant buzz of excitement until the wee hours of the morning when we leave, it definitely seems to be doing something right.