At Primark - the Dublin fast-fashion behemoth that opened its second U.S. store in the Plaza at King of Prussia mall yesterday - there is no shortage of stuff I'd buy and proudly wear.
For example, my hunt for the perfect cardigan sweater is over because Primark has a gang of them: classic round-collar ones; longer yet fitted V-necks; dusters; and chunky capes that swing open in the front (although there are pullover versions, too) - all in at least 10 colors ranging from basic black to beloved blush.
How do I decide which color of the silky blouse featuring a zipper in the back to get? Maybe I should just buy it in black, white, and merlot? Shoot. I wish I could try on a pair of skinnies, but I don't have time to decide which type: distressed at the knees or faux wax-coated? Although, with premium jeans ranging from $17 to $22 a pair, I could always have both, yes?
Do you need a perfect-fitting basic - maybe it's a sheath, maybe it's a comfy sports bra or a pair of pumps - in, like, six colors? This is the place to go.
"We are a volume-driven store," said Breege O'Donoghue, Primark's executive director and a board member who visited Philadelphia last week as part of the Primark world tour. "We sell one million pairs of socks a day, we have over 700 [manufacturers], and are in 36 countries."
The first Primark store was opened in Dublin in 1969 by entrepreneur Arthur Ryan. It was called Penneys (no relation to our J.C. Penney) and still does business as Penneys in Ireland.
Over the decades, the company grew steadily, thanks in part to a team of designers who, for inspiration, has watched the runways, red carpets, Instagram, and High Streets (the UK's term for its SoHo-like neighborhoods).
The designers bring the ideas directly to the buyers and fit specialists who come up with fabrications and patterns for each piece. Then those buyers work with manufacturers to make millions of them at the lowest price possible.
The system has worked - Primark's total sales were up by 13 percent for the year ending in September - but this modern-day practice of mass production in poor countries means those bargains come at a price.
In April 2013, a building that housed one of Primark's manufacturers made international headlines when it collapsed at Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Of the 1,129 people who died, 638 worked for Primark. Afterward, executives paid the survivors compensation packages - nine months of salary - and audited buildings in other countries to make sure they were safe.
Today, Primark has 296 stores in Spain, France, Germany, and Britain, where it has its largest store - at 155,000 square feet - in London. In August, Primark opened its first Stateside store in Boston's Downtown Crossing in the former home of Filene's Basement. And in the spring, Primark is scheduled to open its second store in Pennsylvania, in the Willow Grove Park Mall. By the end of 2016, Primark plans to have 10 U.S. stores.
Primark will likely win the hearts of local fashionistas because it has worked hard to remain relevant in the global, trendsetting world. The company even smartly teamed with the website Refinery 29 - the place to read about a "stylish, well-rounded life" - to host a party last Thursday for local tastemakers that included Macy's incubator designer Terese Brown and menswear blogger Sabir Peele.
Primark's in-store look is similar to other fast-fashion haunts. The King of Prussia store, nestled between Dick's Sporting Goods and Bonefish Grill, is 82,000 square feet.
The top floor - 5,000 square feet - is dedicated to its novelty items. This week, it's not-so-ugly Christmas sweaters and Star Wars paraphernalia (Primark has a Disney license). There are flat-screen TVs that loop cool kids wearing myriad Primark-styled outfits, similar to the 276 mannequins and busts throughout the store. It's all very Uniqlo.
The bottom floor's 77,000 square feet is where the quantity of H&M meets the style of Zara. The women's section seamlessly flows from all things evening wear and cubicle-appropriate (you must check out the leather pencil skirts) to athletic-inspired day wear (we are talking lots of dressy joggers) to actual sports clothes (there is a plethora of patterned yoga pants).
There are children's and men's sections, too, where guys can buy coats and tailored suits for $70. The accessories section (with its cards of studs for just $1) kills.
Last but not least, you'll feel a little bit of Target because Primark sells home goods. Candles start at $1. There are twin-, full-, and queen-size sheets and rolling luggage.
As much as I find Primark appealing, especially to my pocketbook, I can't help but think that every time I walk into this store, I'm going to come out with things I. Just. Don't. Need.
This is not a destination for the mindful shopper.
And that leaves me feeling confused.
Part of me asks, "When is enough enough?" The other part is planning to buy my girlfriends scented candles as stocking stuffers.