Opinion: Forget dividends and rates – grocers are heroes, not villains

Retail hero illustration

How quickly judgements can be questioned in the court of public opinion.

It was only a matter of days ago that Britain’s supermarket chains were the flavour of the month, hailed among the heroes of the coronavirus crisis for their efforts in feeding the nation. 

But after Tesco’s full-year results, two statistics that commentators found much less palatable combined to leave a sour taste – the £635m that the grocer agreed to pay out to shareholders as a final dividend, and the £585m business rates rebate it is receiving from the government.

Many were quick to join the dots between those two figures and come to the blinkered conclusion that the business rates rebate – and therefore, the taxpayer – was essentially funding a pay-out to Tesco’s investors.

That of, course, is simply not the case. Tesco’s dividend was based solely on top- and bottom-line performance in the 12 months ending February 29 – the fiscal year in which it completed its five-year turnaround plan and made a group operating profit of £2.5bn.

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