JD Sports boss slams government for unfair approach to retailers
The executive chairman of JD Sports Fashion has hit out at government policy on business rates relief. He questioned why supermarkets that have been allowed to stay open during the lockdown are entitled to the relief. He thinks it could have been used to cut rents for retailers that were forced to shut their shops in the past few months.
JD Sports has come in for some criticism itself after withholding rents and putting its Go Outdoors chain into administration before buying it back. But it's undeniable that Peter Cowgill has a point about business rates relief.
He said supermarkets have “had the benefit of higher turnover and higher margin” on the back of consumers panic-buying. The UK’s largest supermarket chain, Tesco, saved £532 million due to business rates relief.
And while JD sports has withheld rents during the lockdown, Cowgill recognised the problems that commercial landlords have had and believes that some of the rates relief could have been diverted to help them.
The UK has already seen one of its premier commercial landlords, Intu Properties, going into administration as a result of the lockdown.
Cowgill has also been heavily focused on achieving what he sees as more “realistic” rents and this drive was behind the company's decision to arrange a pre-pack administration for Go Outdoors. At the time he commented on how upward-only rent reviews and long leases had caused major problems for the chain.
On Tuesday after delivering his company’s full-year results, he told the Telegraph: “As a representative of the stronger retailers who attract footfall, I’m tired of sitting next door to occupants who are paying 30-40% less for the same box because they have a lease break or an expiry or have gone through an insolvency process. There has to be a realignment. Stronger tenants shouldn’t be subsidising the weaker tenants.”
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