Is there a PR risk from returning government Covid funds?
Tesco might find that there is after announcing today that it is repaying £585 million it received in business rates relief to the government.
In terms of the nation’s finances £585 million is neither here nor there, but let’s agree that every little helps and that Tesco’s motives are pure.
The issue is that Tesco is positioning itself as a strong retailer at precisely the time much of the rest of the high street is on its knees.
It is not so long ago that the nation’s biggest grocer was dubbed a Tescopoly, a vampire squid of a business that crushed the competition and competitors in equal measure in a relentless drive for growth.
Even if this was unfair (I don’t think it was), it harmed Tesco’s public standing. Some of us shopped there through gritted teeth only.
So returning the £585 million when it did not need to do so raises several questions.
1) Was there really no better use of that money in terms of helping customers and staff?
2) Won’t Tesco risk criticism next time it tries to cut costs or raise prices?
3) Won’t smaller players who are in no position to return their own rates relief rather resent the big brother up the street for making them look and feel bad?
Tricky business, doing the right thing.