Next agrees to repay £29m in business rates relief

Next has joined the growing list of retailers which have committed to repaying millions in business rates relief received at the height of the pandemic lockdown.

The company says its sales for the past 11 weeks are “materially ahead of expectations”, with total online sales across the company growing 56% in the first half of 2021. Total sales across the group rose 18.6% against 2019 in Q2 and are way ahead of the fashion retailer’s 3% prediction.

As a result, the retailer is increasing its guidance for full year profit before tax by +£30m to £750m and has also decided to repay £29m of business rates relief to the government.

The £29m being repaid covers the period when the company had stores open but wasn’t charged the commercial property tax. Whilst not in the same league, they join others such as Tesco and Morrisons which also enjoyed bumper sales across 2020/21 – these jointly committing to repay £850m is business rate relief to the Government.

Next believes that pent-up demand for summer clothing has helped drive the surge in sales, offset by slowing shopping during the hot spell in late-May and early-June. The trend for ‘staycationing’ or people just hanging on to their holiday funds has also increased consumer spending, says the retailer.