Lidl GB today (4 December) confirmed that it will refund over £100m business rates relief received due to the Covid-19 pandemic to the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations.
The business rates relief was vital in allowing the discounter to make significant quick unplanned investments in its operations, infrastructure and people to manage customer demand, Lidl GB said.
The move follows a similar announcement from Aldi UK, which also said it would also pay back the full value of business rates relief that it has received during the pandemic.
In the past nine months, Lidl has recruited 2,500 temporary colleagues and has been dramatically increasing stock levels, investing in infrastructure to ensure security of supply, and introducing safety equipment, including 4 million masks and 5,000 protective checkout screens.
However, looking ahead, as footfall in stores continues to grow, Lidl GB said it is well placed to manage any further changes to the business as a result of the pandemic, and therefore has brought forward plans to return the relief. The discounter said it will work with the UK Government and Devolved Administrations on the best way to facilitate this.
Christian Härtnagel, CEO Lidl GB commented: 'In March, Lidl, along with the rest of the supermarket sector, found itself on the front line of a truly unique set of circumstances and was incredibly grateful for support from government.
“We’ve been considering this for some time, and we are now in a position to confirm that we will be refunding this money as we believe it is the right thing to do. We feel confident that the business is well positioned to navigate and adapt to any further challenges brought by Covid-19.”
Lidl said it is continuing to invest heavily to ensure its people, customers and suppliers stay safe. Its long-term strategy, however, remains unchanged with the business continuing to grow with new customers shopping in stores each week, and its commitment to never being beaten on price stronger than ever.
In July, the discounter announced its intention to open 25 new stores by Christmas this year and is on track to meet that target. Its £1.3bn investment plans for 2021 and 2022 will drive the opening of 100 additional stores across the UK, creating around 4,000 jobs. The retailer also recently announced its commitment to increase the wages of all colleagues on hourly rates, in line with those advocated by the Living Wage Foundation, directly benefiting over 80 per cent of its workforce.
Lidl added that it continues to use its 800+ stores to give back to local communities. Since 2017, Lidl GB stores have donated over 6 million meals to 2,200 charities across Great Britain through its ‘Feed it Back’ programme. Last month, it launched its 'Teaming up to Tackle Hunger' scheme, with vouchers that customers can pay for along with their shopping to donate one of 5 essential food items to their local communities.
Since establishing itself in the UK in 1994, Lidl has experienced continuous growth, and today has over 24,500 employees, 800 stores and 13 distribution centres in England, Scotland and Wales.
As part of the Schwarz retail group, Lidl is one of Europe’s leading organisations in the food retail industry. With a presence in 32 countries around the world, the supermarket, which has more than 287,000 employees globally, currently operates approximately 10,800 stores and more than 160 distribution centres in 29 countries globally.
The Schwarz Group (Kaufland, Lidl) has been Europe's largest food retailer since 2014 and generated a turnover of €104.3 billion in financial year 2018.