KBB businesses pay back millions in furlough payments

Wickes, Toolstation and Victorian Plumbing have all announced plans to pay back millions of pounds to the Government for furlough payments they received during the first lockdown.

Howdens also announced at the start of November that it would repay £22 million after it saw profits rise thanks to an increase in consumer spending on home improvements.

Travis Perkins, which owns Wickes and Toolstation, will give back a total of £50 million that it received in business rates relief and government furlough payments.

The retail arm of Travis Perkins had a strong October and November and benefited from the surge of DIY projects in the UK. That sector had like-for-like sales up by 13.7% compared with 2019 and the group overall saw sales increase by 8.6%.

Victorian Plumbing said it is planning plans to return all the money it received in furlough payments. It said that it was able to do this thanks to a successful year and because it wanted to “support the Government and their efforts in aiding the country’s recovery”.

The Merseyside-based bathroom retailer saw no other choice than to put its staff on furlough in March at the start of the first lockdown, but was able to bring staff back by implementing social distancing measures once the lockdown was relaxed.

Chairman of Victorian Plumbing, Mark Radcliffe, said: “We have just completed a very successful year and now that we have more of an understanding of the impact of Covid, we felt it right to review the support we received in the early part of the year, and we have made the decision to repay this in full. We hope this sets an example for other businesses that have been lucky enough to continue trading during the pandemic.”

Radcliffe added: “During the pandemic, we unfortunately had to furlough a number of our staff, purely based on the fact we could not house them safely within our office space at the time. This wasn’t a decision we wanted to make, but the health of our employees has remained at the forefront over this last year.

“Once the Government published the Covid-safe guidelines, we invested heavily in creating space to be able to bring people back to work with all social distancing guidelines followed.”

Victorian Plumbing announced record-breaking sales for the year to September – up 37% to £207 million, as well as a huge recruitment drive in September as the company continues to grow both in profit and staff.

Radcliffe continued: “Following a difficult few months earlier this year, we’re thrilled to be able to announce that we’re on the hunt for some new talent to join the team. We’re really excited to extend the Victorian Plumbing family and be in a strong position moving into 2021.”

Pictured: Wickes kitchen and a Victorian Plumbing bathroom.

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