The number of jobs in the UK convenience store sector has fallen for the second consecutive year as business costs such as the National Living Wage continue to make an ongoing impact on business operations.

According to the Association of Convenience Stores’ (ACS) 2017 Local Shop Report, released this week, there are now just over 370,000 jobs in the convenience sector - a reduction on both last year’s total of 390,000 and 2015’s total of 407,000.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Convenience stores provide flexible employment for more than 370,000 people across the UK, but this number has fallen as a result of significant increases in the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage, as well as other associated employment costs, alongside rising costs in other areas like business rates.

“In many cases, store owners are having to reduce the number of hours that their staff work while picking up extra hours themselves.”

Data from the report shows that 20% of independent convenience store owners work more than 70 hours a week, while 19% take no holiday.

Conrad Davies, owner of five Spar stores in North Wales said: “We employ 130 people and had five redundancies last time the National Living Wage was increased. We have had to make cost-cutting decisions to safeguard against future increases.

“I dread to think how businesses are going to cope if the National Living Wage rises to as much as £9.”

Chris Pollard, owner of Barlby Village Stores, Selby, Yorkshire, said he hadn’t had to cut staff numbers yet, but may have to in future as wage rates and the cost of pension scheme provision begin to bite. He added: “What winds me up is that politicians do not think about the cost of their policies and the retailers have to pay the price. We have 18 staff, and what with the pension scheme and other costs, each member of staff is costing me a lot more, about £2,500 a month.”

Investing for the future

Despite the cost hikes, some c-store retailers have invested in their businesses, with more than £858m spent in the past year on improving stores, extending product ranges and making businesses more efficient, according to the report.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The intense competition and rising sales in the convenience sector demonstrate that local shops have never been more relevant to the lives of consumers. Technology and consumer needs are changing rapidly, so stores are evolving to offer more products and services.”

Retailers’ views

“I think those staff with current contracts have benefited from the wage rises. However, when staff ask to change their hours or leave then we haven’t replaced them. ”

Ramesh Shingadia, Londis, Horsham, West Sussex

“We have the minimum amount of staff we need to run the store. But there is a danger that the rate will go up again and, along with rates and product inflation, it is tough to adapt.”

Harry Goraya, Rosherville Post Office (Nisa), Gravesend, Kent