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Reuters API
Dec 2, 2020
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M&S won't return pandemic business rates relief to UK government

Reuters API
Dec 2, 2020

British clothing and food retailer Marks & Spencer said on Wednesday it would not follow Tesco in returning business rates relief it has received from the government to help get it through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer said it would repay the 585 million pounds it has claimed, putting pressure on rivals to do the same.

Sainsbury's, Walmart's Asda and Morrisons, which have all also claimed relief, all declined to comment.

M&S claimed business rates relief of 83.7 million pounds in its first half to Sept. 26 and can claim for its second half too.

"We are very grateful for the much-needed support government has provided to businesses impacted by the pandemic – including ours," said an M&S spokeswoman.

"It has enabled us to support our colleagues and our suppliers, whilst continuing to serve our customers in what have been incredibly challenging circumstances."

Unlike Tesco, which has been able to keep all its stores open through the pandemic, M&S has seen most of its clothing and 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 4% 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.


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