The boss of Dixons Carphone has defended not handing back millions of pounds in tax relief as it swung to a half-year profit thanks to booming online sales during the pandemic.
Chief executive Alex Baldock, asked why it had not followed other retailers in returning the aid, told Sky News the company’s success during the pandemic had not “been handed to us on a plate”.
Mr Baldock made the comments after the Currys PC World owner reported a £45m profit for the six months to the end of October – compared to an £86m loss a year ago – as online demand for electricals boomed.
Sales grew despite the closure of stores during lockdowns as products such as fridges, TVs, computers, food processors and fitness trackers proved popular.
The company has benefited from £103m in UK and Irish government help during the pandemic, including the furlough scheme for temporarily laid-off workers and the business rates tax holiday.
It said the latter scheme, introduced to help companies struggling during the pandemic, has provided a £34m boost in the UK.
Other retailers, led by supermarket giant Tesco, have announced they will hand back rates relief totalling more than £2bn.
On Wednesday, Travis Perkins – whose brands include DIY chain Wickes – became the latest to give back the money, together with furlough payments, totalling £50m.
Dixons Carphone made no such announcement, though when asked to explain this, Mr Baldock told Sky’s Ian King Live: “We’ve got a way to go until the year end and we’ll see.”
The company also pointed out that the estimated impact of store restrictions in the UK and Ireland was £155m, well above the sum it received in government help.
Unlike companies that have given back money, Dixons Carphone was not designated as an “essential” retailer that was allowed to stay open during the pandemic.
In fact, Mr Baldock said the company had been “fighting with one arm tied behind our back” as rivals such as Argos, owned by supermarket Sainsbury’s, and John Lewis, sister company to Waitrose, were able to keep selling through physical stores.
At the same time it also faced competition from online-only platforms such as Amazon and AO.
Mr Baldock said there had been no coronavirus-related job losses and it had taken no government-backed loans while bosses at the group had waived bonuses, taken pay cuts and suspended the shareholder dividend.
“If we have been successful this year it’s not because anything’s been handed to us on a plate,” Mr Baldock said.
“It’s a tribute to the hard work of 35,000 people getting us through this crisis.”
The half-year results revealed that in contrast to strong electricals sales, revenues from mobile phones – where the group is the midst of a restructuring that will see 2,900 roles axed as all 531 standalone Carphone Warehouse stores close – were down 54%.
But shares still surged by 12% on the results.
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