Retailers are spending less time on the running of their store and more on coping with red tape, a new survey has found.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) says that small retailers spend an average of 33 hours of company time a month on form-filling and paperwork, but this figure underestimates the actual commitment, store owners say.

FPB policy representative Matt Goodman said: "Our research shows that complying with red tape remains one of the major burdens facing smaller business, swallowing up valuable time and money that could be used more profitably elsewhere."

Goodman said he had met with the Better Regulation Executive to explore ways of reducing the legislative burden.

Richard Sellars, who runs Twyford Stores in Winchester, Hampshire, said he and his staff spend almost 24 working hours a week on paperwork, that's almost three times the average revealed in the survey.

"All this paperwork takes me away from the shop floor where I could be monitoring stock, helping customers and growing my business. Between VAT, PAYE, NI, council tax and all the other forms we have to fill out, I barely have time to run the store."