More than 400 Argos stores are to close putting more than 3,500 jobs at risk, as owner J Sainsbury accelerates plans to cut costs following the Covid-19 pandemic (The Financial Times £). Up to 3,500 jobs are expected to go at Sainsbury’s as the supermarket closes the bulk of its standalone Argos stores as well as all its meat, fish and deli counters (The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Sky News).

Argos cull raises questions over Sainsbury’s strategy, writes The Times. “One of the merits of the deal was said to be that they could sell to each other’s shoppers. It’s hard to know if Argos customers flocked to Sainsbury’s to shop, but given their rivals’ market share growth it does not seem so.” (The Times £)

Sainsbury’s has said the supply of some fish, dairy and meat products to its stores in Northern Ireland could be significantly reduced from January because of Brexit. (The Guardian)

Sainsbury’s is to hand a £231m dividend pay-out to investors, despite axing 3,500 jobs and vowing to close 420 Argos stores as part of a huge restructuring drive (The Telegraph). The boss of J Sainsbury has defended his decision to pay £230 million in dividends while receiving the same amount in business rates relief by arguing the property tax is unfair. (The Times £)

The Times’ Alistair Osborne is unimpressed by the supermarket holding onto its business rates rebate. He writes: “Feeding the nation one day, fleecing it the next. There’s a fine, and nuanced, line between being the good or bad guys of this crisis. And, sorry to report, Sainsbury’s has just crossed it.” (The Times £)

The Guardian’s Nils Pratley also weighs in on business rates, writing: “Another day, another supermarket chief executive pleading that his company somehow deserves its business rates freebie because it’s had to suffer extra costs in “feeding the nation”. All that hand sanitiser, plus the burden of paying so many staff to shield at home, adds up, don’t you know?” (The Guardian)

The FT’s Lex column suggests Sainsbury’s share price drop on the news yesterday was unwarranted. “These are the right moves for its future. Income shoppers will be attracted to the 5 per cent dividend yield, a payout easily covered by free cash flow. Cutting costs to invest in lower prices should keep the grocer competitive. No need to check out of Sainsbury’s just yet.” (The Financial Times £)

The BBC talks to Sainsbury’s customers over weather they are bothered about the shutting of the supermarket’s meat, fish and deli counters. (The BBC)

Sainsbury’s gets basics wrong as tills keep ringing, writes Ben Marlow in The Telegraph. New boss Simon Roberts is axing 3,500 jobs despite bumper sales - something doesn’t add up, he writes. (The Telegraph)

Retailers enjoyed a pre-lockdown boost last month with sales rising for the first time since January (The Times £). The four-day countdown to the new coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England that began on Thursday triggered a mini boom for store and restaurant owners as consumers rushed to buy Christmas gifts and enjoy a last eat-out supper (The Guardian). A slew of high street names have lined up to reassure the City that their finances can withstand the sales disruption caused by a second lockdown in England (The Guardian).

Businesses across the hospitality and retail sectors in England called on the government for clarity over when the new national lockdown would end as they braced themselves for a month or more of closure on Thursday. (The Financial Times £)

Rishi Sunak’s five-month extension of the furlough scheme has been hailed by industry leaders as a “bold and much-needed” lifeline through a bleak winter for thousands of companies (The Times £). This is a significant extension of the furlough scheme and also a significant change in direction too, writes Sky News.

UK trade with the EU faces “significant disruption” when the Brexit transition period ends in January, a government spending watchdog has said. (The BBC)

WH Smith has pulled a proposed £4.5 million bonus for its chief executive after accusations from shareholders of being tone-deaf. (The Times £)

Dry weather and government stockpiling have pushed soyabean prices to a four-year high, as a broad rebound in agricultural commodities creates unease about inflation. (The Financial Times £)

Our diets and agricultural production around the world are so carbon-intensive that emissions from the global food system alone would be enough to put the Paris climate goals out of reach, even if all the other major sources of emissions were closed down, research has shown. (The Guardian)