Retail giant ‘to review entire portfolio’ after Budget business rates snub

Frasers Group is to review its entire portfolio in response to the “near worthless support package for large retailers” unveiled by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Budget.

The Shirebrook-based retail giant which owns Sports Direct has criticised Sunak’s business rates support which was announced on Wednesday.

The business rates holiday for non-essential retailers has been extended by three months to the end of June, which will be followed by a six-month transition where rates will only be one-third of their usual level.

However there was a £2m cap placed on the rates discount.

Frasers, which includes House of Fraser, Flannels, Game, and Evans Cycles in its portfolio, employs around 20,000 people in the UK.

The Mike Ashley-owned group has been one of the few retailers in acquisitive mood, having bought, Jack Wills, and part from DW Sport Fitness in the last two years.

In a statement Frasers said: “For Frasers Group this cap will make it nearly impossible to take on ex-Debenhams sites with the inherent jobs created. It will also mean we need to review our entire portfolio to ascertain stores that are unviable due to unrealistic business rates.

“Frasers Group believes that retailers should pay the fair amount of rates in line with realistic rateable values, but instead we continue to have an unwieldy, overly complex, and out of date business rates regime.”

The group wants the Chancellor to provide “suitable relief until structural reform is implemented”.

Danni Hewson, financial analyst at AJ Bell, said it was “understandable” the group had been publicly critical of the business rates regime.

She said: “Mike Ashley’s retail empire has a lot of skin in the game.

“It’s never disclosed exactly how much rates relief it’s received from the government during the pandemic but with 992 UK stores it must be sizeable.

“Like many retailers its clear Frasers had hoped the Chancellor would use the budget to finally address the much-discussed inequalities between online and bricks and mortar stores, but once again that can was kicked down the road.”