Top: B&M wins plaudits for employee bonuses
With lockdown again upon us, the onus on businesses to communicate how they are doing the right thing in the crisis is as great as ever.
We were tempted to include BrewDog's offer to convert its closed pubs into vaccine centres (that is covered in this week's Creative Hits & Misses column) or the internet service providers offering extended mobile data to children being schooled at home.
Instead, discount retailer B&M gets the nod, after it received largely positive publicity despite the news that founder and chief executive Simon Arora has handed himself a £30m dividend.
That followed a big jump in sales for the company, which operates 673 stores. Revenue leapt 22.5 per cent to £1.4bn in the 13 weeks to 26 December. This was helped by its status as an essential retailer, which meant its stores could trade during the various restrictions, and continue to do so.
Crucially, the announcement was accompanied by news that 30,000 staff will receive an extra week's wages as reward for their work. B&M also announced it would reintroduce 10 per cent discounts for NHS staff who, the firm said, saved £3m when the discounts were offered during the first lockdown.
We're so proud to be able to help support our NHS Heroes with all of their essentials throughout the Covid pandemic.— B&M Stores (@bmstores) January 6, 2021
As a gesture of gratitude, we're re-introducing our 10% colleague discount for all NHS workers, for the month of January, starting from today.
Thank you! pic.twitter.com/jGgGZ3IyGz
By focusing on employees, Arora's comment struck the right tone: "Our trading performance is testament to the hard work and commitment of all our colleagues, to whom I express my sincere thanks.
"The safety and wellbeing of our customers and colleagues has remained our priority during these unprecedented times, while we have worked hard to provide customers with the everyday essentials they need. We are awarding some 30,000 store and distribution colleagues an extra week's wages in recognition of their considerable efforts."
B&M was among the major retailers that last month pledged to repay business rates relief granted during the COVID-19 crisis, having been criticised for paying dividends despite originally accepting the Government handout.
Comms lessons seems to have been learned.
John Harrington, UK editor
Flop: FA/Premier League fail to punish Covidiot footballers
The reputation of elite football in England has been on a roller coaster ride since COVID-19 first caused chaos last March.
Big clubs failed to secure player salary cuts last spring, despite many weeks of not playing while the rest of society took financial pain.
Certain England internationals boosted the game’s reputation with their responsible actions, such as Marcus Rashford’s campaign to secure free meals for qualifying children during school holidays; Harry Kane’s sponsorship bailout of his first club, Leyton Orient; and Jordan Henderson’s leadership on charity work.
And the return of regular Premier League football last summer was a big psychological boost for many sports fans.
But irresponsible actions by certain players throughout the pandemic have been detrimental to the sport, with major transgressions by Kyle Walker, Jack Grealish and Mason Greenwood last year, among others.
Very disappointing, then, that neither the Football Association nor the Premier League would take action this week against a number of players who blatantly flouted rules over the festive period.
Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy invited two non-household guests and a chef to his £5m mansion. Some Crystal Palace and Fulham players attended a New Year's Eve party. But even worse, three Tottenham Hotspur stars (Sergio Reguilon, Giovani Lo Celso, Erik Lamela) and a West Ham player (Manuel Lanzini) broke the rules by enjoying a big Christmas party – and were stupid enough to upload pictures of the gathering on social media.
Giovani Lo Celso, Sergio Reguilon, Erik Lamela and Manuel Lanzini appeared to break Covid-19 guidelines to spend Christmas together.— GiveMeSport (@GiveMeSport) January 2, 2021
Spurs and West Ham have now both released statements.https://t.co/75EN73pqbv
There was huge anger among fans who had to endure a Christmas isolated from their families while footballers partied on regardless.
And yet the FA, the governing body for the game in England, declined to sanction these players, prompting the questions as to who – if not they, the Premier League or the clubs – is responsible for ensuring the sport is not brought into such disrepute.
Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief