Tesco to repay £585m of Covid-19 business rates relief – business live | Business


The right thing for Tesco to do is also the right thing for Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, Aldi and Lidl and so on. Indeed, the most gratuitously underserved handout was received by B&M. The discount chain sells a few lines of food, so it qualified as an essential retailer and stayed open, but its shelves are also filled with toys, games, furniture, stationery and rugs. With most of its non-food competitors ruled offside, B&M had the freedom of the inessential pitch.

Earlier this month, B&M reported a 30% improvement in like-for-like sales in a six-month period and a near-doubling of top-line profits to £296m. There was never a reason for Sunak to give B&M £38m-worth of relief on rates – in pub-land, his error must look obscene.

B&M and the others have a simple choice. They can do as Tesco has done belatedly – thank the chancellor for his kind support in a moment of economic uncertainty and say that, happily, his gift turns out not to have been needed. Or they can explain why they’re greedier than Tesco.

The market leader will win huge credit for moving first. But second place is still up for grabs, and limping in last is not the position to be. Hurry up.

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