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Cook will hold on to the £600k in business rates relief it accrued last year despite sales jumping 7% to £83m for the year ending 31 March 2021.

The upmarket frozen food retailer and manufacturer said it would pay back the £235k furlough aid it received during the first national lockdown after temporarily closing its puddings kitchen in Somerset as demand for party-sized desserts vanished.

Since then the family-owned business has declined a further £700k from the job retention scheme, opting instead to pay its staff that were unable to work due to two further national lockdowns themselves.

It comes as Cook’s high street stores saw sales drop by a third from March 2020 to March 2021.

This was mitigated by a boom in online orders, which now account for 60% of all sales, up from 20% pre-pandemic.

Cook CEO Edward Perry told The Grocer the costs of operating during the pandemic had been “hefty” during its “most challenging year” to date.

“Throughout, we have remained committed to the high street,” said Perry. “The business rates holiday for retailers during Covid helped us keep all our shops open.

”It also supported our rapid rollout of local delivery vans to shops, thereby securing our high street locations for the long term and meeting the purpose for which the relief was intended: to protect good jobs and invest in the survival of our high streets.

“We were hugely fortunate to be able to ride out the pandemic due to the remarkable commitment and courage of our people and no small degree of luck.”

During 2020, Cook rolled out home delivery from all 89 stores with the addition of a fleet of new vehicles. It is now preparing to expand its bricks & mortar offer within retail parks, shunning its traditional high street approach.

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