January’s planned increase in fuel duty will harm small shops and should be scrapped, independents have told C-Store.

The government plans to increase fuel duty by 3p a litre in January, although Chancellor George Osborne is under great pressure - thanks to an e-petition signed by more than 110,000 people - to scrap it as part of his autumn statement on the economy later this month.

Retailers added their voice to the call this week, despite the fact that high fuel prices are often credited for fostering a ‘shop local’ mentality as people cut down on car use.

“Even though I’m convinced that trade in my store is up as a result of high fuel prices, I’m dead against any further rises,” Spar retailer Heather Stothard from Maltby, near Rotherham, told C-Store. “The less money people have in their pockets, the less they become willing to spend in store, and if prices keep on rising the fact that they’ve walked here won’t matter anymore.”

She added: “Sales will start to slow, but my costs will keep on rising as suppliers pass on the increases. My bin collections are already more expensive than they were last year as the company is passing on this summer’s diesel price rises. It’s starting to cripple us.”

Forecourt retailer Chris Woodruff of Darsham Service Station in rural Suffolk also called for the rise to be parked.

“I’m 100% against any further price hikes on fuel. As a forecourt retailer, first impressions are vital and if people see high fuel prices advertised outside they assume that everything inside the store is expensive and drive on by,” he said. “High fuel costs also make it difficult for staff to get to work as we are in a rural location.”

Osborne scrapped the annual fuel tax escalator - a mechanism under which duty rose by 1p above inflation every year - and cut fuel duty by 1p in March’s Budget. However, he had only postponed the planned inflation-linked part of the duty rise to January 2012.