// Pets at Home and B&M the latest “essential retailers” to hand back money they have saved in business rates relief
// Pets at Home will hand over £28.9m, while B&M will hand over “around £80m”
// It follows similar moves by Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Aldi
Pets at Home and B&M have become the latest “essential” retailers to agree to pay the government its business rates saving of almost £110 million, following similar moves by the all the Big 4 grocers plus Aldi.
The pet specialist retailer said it would return £28.9 million, with bosses saying the emergence of a Covid-19 vaccine had allowed them to reassess the levels of uncertainty and that trading remains strong.
- Co-op Group urged to hand back £70m of business rates relief
- M&S refuses to return £83.7m business rates relief
- Sainsbury’s and Morrisons commit to repaying business rates relief
The move follows a similar decision by discount retailer B&M, which said on Thursday afternoon that it will repay savings of “around £80 million”.
Pets At Home said its decision “reflects the company’s guiding principle of treating all stakeholders fairly and is supported by the continuing strong performance of the business”.
It pointed out that the retailer, which has more than 400 stores across the UK, spent £35 million on Covid-related costs and had previously said the rates holiday would offset them.
However, chief executive Peter Pritchard said Pets at Home would still make the payment.
“We were very grateful for the rates relief provided back in March during a time of significant uncertainty, which helped us to take the decision to keep our stores, online operations and veterinary practices open,” he said.
“Recent positive news around the launch of vaccinations for Covid-19 has led us to reassess the level of uncertainty ahead.
“Our decision today demonstrates our clear commitment to acting responsibly and treating all of our stakeholders fairly.”
In a stock market announcement, B&M said “although significant uncertainty remains, the group believes it is now right to forego the business rates relief granted to B&M”.
B&M chief executive Simon Arora said: “We request urgent reform of the outdated business rates system that is contributing to job losses across the retail sector and is acting as a deterrent to B&M and other potential occupiers taking up vacant space in many locations.”
The move comes after, Aldi, Asda Sainsbury’s announced yesterday that they would hand back more than £800 million in business rates relief to the UK Government.
It came after rivals Tesco and Morrisons made the same commitment on Wednesday.
The decision by the five biggest grocers in the UK means almost £2 billion will be paid to the UK Government and puts more pressure on “essential” retail rivals to follow suit.
Downing Street welcomed the retailers’ decisions to hand back the cash.
The business rates holiday was announced in March by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, aimed at helping retailers and hospitality firms forced to close due to the pandemic.
Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Co-op have said they would not be making similar moves because the savings are needed to offset the Covid-related costs, while Lidl has declined to comment.
M&S said it did not intend to return its £83 million of business rates relief.
A spokeswoman said: “We are very grateful for the much-needed support Government has provided to businesses impacted by the pandemic – including ours.
“It has enabled us to support our colleagues and our suppliers, whilst continuing to serve our customers in what have been incredibly challenging circumstances.”
The Co-op said the amount spent on protecting staff and customers outweighed the savings.
“Given the huge uncertainty we’re facing… and the ongoing costs we are incurring, we’ll consider our approach in terms of the Government support we’ve received at year end,” it said.
Meanwhile a spokesman for Waitrose owner the John Lewis Partnership said: “We are incredibly grateful for this vital support because we have lost significant sales while our John Lewis shops have been closed and have invested heavily to keep our partners and customers safe.
“The outlook remains incredibly uncertain and Government support remains crucial to help us navigate the crisis.”
Data compiled last month by real estate advisory firm Altus Group projected the UK’s Big 4 – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, plus German rivals Aldi and Lidl – would save about £1.87 billion as a result of the rates holiday.
The total saving for all “essential” retailers, which have been allowed to remain open, is about £3.03 billion, Altus added, from a total rates bill of £10.1 billion.