The John Lewis Partnership is under increasing pressure to hand back millions of pounds of business rates relief after revealing that it performed better than expected at the end of last year (The Times £).

John Lewis has repaid £300m that it borrowed from the Bank of England’s coronavirus pandemic loan scheme earlier than scheduled, after trading in the run-up to Christmas was more resilient than the retailer had expected (The Financial Times £). John Lewis is to repay a £300m emergency Covid loan earlier than expected after trading picked up over the key Christmas period (The Telegraph). John Lewis is to repay a £300m government Covid support loan almost two months early, as the retailer upgraded its profit guidance after stronger than expected sales during the crucial festive season (The Guardian). John Lewis has said it will repay its £300million Government coronavirus loan ahead of schedule after Black Friday and Christmas sales held up better than anticipated (The Daily Mail).

John Lewis halo has lost its shine, writes Alistair Osborne in The Times. “As tin-eared statements go, it’s hard to beat. And one that makes you wonder what’s happened to the normally astute Dame Sharon White since she became John Lewis chairwoman last February. The Covid loan was due to be repaid to the Treasury on March 15 anyway, so handing it back now is no big deal. Did she really think her goodie-two-shoes act would kill the row over business rates relief?” (The Times £)

It’s time for John Lewis to live up to its high moral values, writes The Telegraph’s Ben Marlow. After strong festive trading the partnership is paying back its loans early, but still refuses to hand back its business rates freebie. (The Telegraph)

The former government high street tsar Mary Portas has called for business rates relief to be extended until the end of the year and for an “Eat Out to Help Out-style” incentive scheme to be introduced to encourage people back into shops (The Times £).

Hedge funds are ramping up bets that Sainsbury’s will be the next British grocer to be snapped up in a debt-fuelled takeover, after the Issa brothers’ swoop on Asda. (The Telegraph)

UK drinkers face paying up to £1.50 extra a bottle on many European wines while choosing from a reduced range, merchants have warned, as the burden of post-Brexit paperwork takes effect. (The Financial Times £)

The meat industry has been hit hard, with containers of fresh produce, held up by customs checks and delivery delays, left to rot in EU ports. (The Times £)

Fortnum & Mason has reported its first post-tax loss in a decade after stores were forced to close. (The Daily Mail)

The billionaire brothers buying supermarket Asda have gatecrashed a bidding battle for fashion chain Topshop. Blackburn’s Zuber and Mohsin Issa have been locked in top secret talks to buy the fashion brand for the past fortnight and launched a late bid last week. (The Daily Mail)

Sproud, a Swedish start-up that makes milk from peas has raised £4.8m from a London-based investor to fund expansion across the UK and into America and Canada. (The Times £)

UK retail sales rose less than expected in December as shoppers preparing for a pandemic-hit Christmas eschewed spending significant amounts (The Financial Times £). Retail sales in Britain staged only a weak recovery in December during the key Christmas shopping period to bring to an end the worst year for consumer spending on record, according to official figures (The Guardian). A Christmas boost helped lift sales at Britain’s retailers in December, but 2020 as a whole was the worst on record for the High Street as the impact of forced closures due to the pandemic took its toll (The Daily Mail). Retail sales in 2020 saw the largest annual fall since records began in 1996, as retailers continued to suffer from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic (Sky News).

Local high streets have weathered the pandemic storm better than city centre shopping areas, analysis has shown. (The Daily Mail)

The pubs industry is set for a wave of mergers and acquisitions as industry veterans seek to raise funds for deals (The Times £). Former Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham tells of golden opportunity in hospitality sector: ‘Bars will rise again - I’m investing £6m to buy into a boom’. (The Daily Mail)

Since Donald Trump imposed a 25% tariff on sales to America in October 2019, Scotch exports to the US have fallen 30%. Distillers hope the new occupant of the Oval Office will end the charges imposed by his predecessor — though Biden, like Trump, does not touch alcohol. (The Times £)

Frozen king crabs are about to become scarcer in China. Concerns that frozen foods carry coronavirus is triggering food import bans. Structural changes in the local food industry are contributing to the risk of shortages and price rises. (The Financial Times £)