B&Q owner Kingfisher has joined other retailers in returning emergency taxpayer support, pledging to repay £130m it received in business rates relief.
Last week Tesco, the UK’s biggest retailer, became the first company to say it would return business rates relief, followed by Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Lidl, Pets at Home and the discounter B&M. In total they have vowed to pay back more than £2bn to the UK government.
The business rates holiday was announced by the government in March to help retailers that were forced to close during the national coronavirus lockdown. However, supermarkets and other essential retailers that were allowed to stay open through the pandemic reported big sales increases and have come under pressure to repay the financial support. Their position became increasingly untenable, especially after their decision to resume dividend payments to shareholders.
Amazon will repay £2m in business rates relief it received for its food chain Whole Foods Market, according to the real estate adviser Altus Group.
However, Marks & Spencer and the John Lewis Partnership, which owns Waitrose, have refused to follow suit even though they also benefited from strong food sales during the pandemic. They argue that they need the government support because of the financial strain placed on their clothing and homewares businesses during the crisis.
Kingfisher said it had repaid the £23m it received under the government’s job retention scheme.
Its chief executive, Thierry Garnier, said that “returning the UK and Irish business rates relief in full is the right thing to do”.
He said Kingfisher, which owns the B&Q and Screwfix DIY chains, had reported a strong sales performance since it reopened its stores in late April and early May, helped by higher demand for home improvement during the pandemic.
Who is repaying what
Tesco – £585m
Sainsbury’s – £440m
Asda – £340m
Morrisons – £274m
Kingfisher – £130m
Aldi – £109m
Lidl – £108m
B&M – £80m
Pets at Home – £29m
Total – £2.095bn