UK rates relief repayments reach £1.9bn

Date : 08 December 2020

Nick Gladding

Senior Retail Analyst

Lidl, B&M and Amazon have become the latest retailers to repay business rates relief received from the UK government and devolved administrations during the pandemic. The announcements follow the decision by Tesco to repay the relief last week and subsequent moves from Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Aldi. In total the relief set to be repaid by grocery retailers has now reached £1.9bn.

Lidl to pay over £100m

In a statement, Lidl said the relief had been “vital in allowing the discounter to make significant quick unplanned investments in its operations, infrastructure and people to manage customer demand.” However looking ahead, Lidl said it was well placed to manage further changes to the business as a result of the pandemic and had therefore brought forward plans to return the relief.

B&M waives rates relief following strong trading

In a trading update B&M reported steadily improving customer numbers and like-for-like growth in the first nine weeks of its Q3 period. This puts full year profits on course to exceed analyst consensus estimates so B&M has decided to refund the £80m in business rate relief it has received. In doing so CEO Simon Arora called on the government for “urgent reform of the outdated business rates system” that he said was “contributing to job losses across the retail sector and acting as a deterrent to B&M and other potential occupiers taking space in many locations.”

Amazon to repay £2m

Amazon has now also said it will repay rates relief it has received on its Whole Foods Market stores – estimated at £2m by commercial real estate specialist, Altus Group. Around half of the sum is estimated to be linked to its Kensington flagship.

Other food retailers to retain support

The willingness of retailers to forgo rates relief is often linked to their underlying finances and other players have decided not to surrender it, at least for now.

  • Waitrose owner John Lewis Partnership has said it will not repay the relief which it described as vital support at a time when John Lewis stores have been closed and with the outlook remaining “incredibly uncertain”
  • M&S does not plan to repay the relief, describing it as “much needed support”. It received £83.7m in the first half when it reported a loss. The business can also claim for H2
  • Co-op also does not plan to hand back the £70m it has received. It pointed out its funeral care division had incurred extra costs from Covid, while a commitment to pay the National Living Wage from next year will also increase its cost base

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