BONN At 10 am on Tuesday in Bonn, the controversial textile discounter Primark opened its branch in the Maximiliancenter. Hundreds of customers came to the opening, at the same time 100 demonstrators took up their positions.
Many a passer-by was astonished when Primark opened his doors shortly after 10 am on Tuesday. Cheering, dancing and with balloons, employees greeted customers, who had already waited impatiently in a long queue in front of the Maximilian Center for this moment, to loud disco music. Hundreds of people streamed into the store, passing security guards, while around 100 Primark opponents demonstrated outside the centre with posters and slogans against the Irish textile discounter.
Wolfgang Krogmann, Managing Director of Primark Germany and Austria, thanked the employees from 21 nations in a short welcoming speech they had filled the shelves and clothes racks with clothes in just over a week. Around 180 employees work at the Primark branch in Bonn, 20 percent of them full-time, according to Primark. Among the invited guests is Georg Fenninger, former CDU parliamentary party leader and councillor.
"I don't understand the drama," says Fenninger, who once played a major role in driving forward plans to build the Maximilian Center and the Urban Soul complex on the station forecourt. "This construction is positive for the entire inner city. He himself determines the orientation of the retail trade. Politics cannot exert any influence there."
Jutta Lutz-Kadereit sees things differently. The Bonn woman supports the campaign "Live better without Primark". She stands at a table in Poststraße with second-hand clothing, where passers-by can choose clothes that are worn but in good condition as a kind of counter-action to "fast fashion". "The city of Bonn could at least have tried to impose conditions on the client. After all, it calls itself Fair Trade City."
Following the old folk song "Bruder Jakob" the demonstrators sing: „Fair trade jacket, where are you? Certainly not in a Primark store“…
Krogmann knows this scene from other store openings and is calm. He never tires of pointing out that Primark is also aware that the textile industry needs to do even more for the working conditions of its seamstresses and for environmental protection. Primark, however, is constantly intensifying its efforts to achieve greater sustainability, he explains. With regard to the sharp criticism of his company by Bonn member of parliament Katja Dörner (Green Party), which she had published on her Bundestag Facebook page, Krogmann offers: "I am happy to talk to Mrs Dörner.“ Meanwhile they are also in contact with the office of the party delegates.
In response to Dörner's criticism, Bonn's head of social affairs, Carolin Krause, had also reported and posted that she rejected the "Primark system. Jannis Vassiliou has again called this on the plan. The chairman of the retail trade association is also among the invited guests and says about Krause: "It is not up to a municipal department head to express herself in this function, for or against a company that is currently settling in Bonn and creating jobs.“
Krogmann was really annoyed by a previously unknown man who had sprayed a long line of white paint onto the shop windows of the centre from his bicycle in the early morning. "We can't accept that. We put millions into expanding the business," he says.
Meanwhile, the three floors of the textile discounter are bustling with activity. Hardly any of the customers are prepared to talk to media representatives. One woman says she feels threatened by the demonstrators and doesn't want to give an interview. As a precaution, Alexandra (45) only reveals her first name. The housewife has come from Wesseling to shop in Primark.
“If you have to watch your money like me, the shop is just right," she says and pulls a winter coat out of the bag, which she bought for 30 Euro. "The more expensive clothes also come from these factories," says the 45-year-old, pointing to a poster by a demonstrator with the inscription "Slaves at the spinning wheel".
(Original text: Lisa Inhoffen, Translation: Mareike Graepel)