John Lewis has said it is to repay its £300 million Government coronavirus loan ahead of schedule after Christmas sales were more robust than feared.
The John Lewis Partnership (JLP), which runs the department store chain and Waitrose supermarket arm, said its finances are sufficient for it repay the support funding, which was due to be paid on March 15, early.
It comes as all its department stores remain shut in the face of the latest coronavirus lockdown.
The retail group said trading over the peak Black Friday and Christmas sales period “held up better than expected” despite restrictions.
It said it therefore expects full-year profits to be ahead of its previous guidance, when it predicted a small loss or small profit for the 2020-21 financial year.
JLP secured the coronavirus support loan after the Government and the Bank of England set up the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) at the start of the pandemic.
More than 200 large UK businesses have borrowed money through the scheme, and many of them have already repaid their loans.
The partnership is to repay the loan, but its Waitrose business remains one of a handful of UK supermarket chains yet to volunteer to return millions of pounds in business rates relief.
In December, Tesco said it would hand back £585 million from its business rates holiday, starting a chain reaction among rivals which saw around £2 billion repaid to the Government.
Waitrose received around £120 million of business rates relief for the year, according to estimates by real estate adviser Altus Group.