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The owner of John Lewis and Waitrose has repaid a £300 million Covid loan it borrowed to help ride out the virus crisis, it said as it revealed better than expected festive trading.
The update comes ahead of the March 15 deadline the John Lewis Partnership had to repay the HM Treasury and Bank of England Covid Corporate Financing Facility.
Despite disruption from store closures at various points last year for lockdowns, and future trading volatility, the employee-owned business believes it has sufficient liquidity going forward.
The company added: “Trading during peak, which includes Black Friday and the Christmas period, held up better than anticipated.”
It expects profits for the year to January 31 to be ahead of the guidance given in September. At that point it said a small loss or small profit was likely.
However, the company has not made an update on paying back business rates relief. Most grocers have said they will hand it back after facing criticism for taking it while seeing high customer demand, and in some cases paying out dividends to shareholders.
Waitrose is classified as an ‘essential retailer’ so stores have been allowed to stay open during lockdowns.
John Lewis has had to close when lockdowns are in place, but was open for click and collect. However, earlier this month it said it would temporarily suspend the service as part of efforts to encourage people to stay at home during the national lockdown.
It said at the time that it was “conscious of the increased need to remove reasons for non essential travel during the current lockdown, to help encourage the public to stay at home”.
Both Waitrose and John Lewis have sold online throughout the pandemic.