// M&S will not return £83.7m business rates relief it received from government
// The retailer said government’s “much-needed support” has provided a backbone to businesses
Marks & Spencer has said it will not follow some of the biggest retailers’ footsteps in returning business rates relief it received to help support it through the Covid-19 pandemic.
The retailer claimed business rates relief of £83.7 million from the government in its first half to September 26 and can also claim for its second half.
However, M&S said on Wednesday that the “much-needed support” from the government has provided a backbone to businesses impacted by the pandemic – “including ours”.
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“It has enabled us to support our colleagues and our suppliers, whilst continuing to serve our customers in what have been incredibly challenging circumstances,” M&S said.
Big 4 grocer Tesco said it would repay the £585 million it has claimed, putting pressure on rivals to do the same.
Unlike Tesco, which has been able to keep all its stores open through the pandemic, M&S has seen most of its clothing & home store space closed for extended periods.
In M&S’s food division, cafes and hospitality services, which prior to the crisis accounted for about four per cent of food revenue, have been closed, while its franchise business, particularly in travel hubs, has been severely impacted.
Trading at M&S’s high street and town centre stores has also been hit by the major drop in customer footfall.
M&S reported a loss for its first half and did not pay shareholders a final dividend for the 2019/20 year and has said it does not anticipate paying dividends for 2020/21.
Tesco said in October it would pay its shareholders an interim dividend.
Sainsbury’s also announced it would forgo around £450 million of business rates relief granted by the government, while responded by saying it had pledged to hand back the £274 million it had received.
Fellow Big 4 grocers Asda and Morrisons have also announced they would hand over their business rates relief savings to the government.
Aldi, the UK’s fifth-largest supermarket, said on Thursday that it will return the full value of the business rates relief it has received during the pandemic, which is over £100 million.