I hope you've got all your plans in place for the country's imminent bank holiday bonanza.

An unusually late Easter and the Royal Wedding mean that we have two consecutive long weekends to deal with. And while that might pose some operational challenges for staffing and deliveries, it does provide a genuinely new sales opportunity for local shops.

In effect, it's two consecutive Easter weekends, so if you normally do well on bank holidays, you should do twice as well this year. The two long weekends provide a great platform for people to host family gatherings or entertain friends a market c-stores should benefit from.

Even if you're not that excited about the Royal Wedding itself, it will provide a welcome distraction from the gloom surrounding us and lift the national mood and the positive effects of that shouldn't be underestimated.

Which leads us on to the final, key element. We've already had a couple of weeks of glorious sunshine so I'm sure many of you have already been shifting good quantities of charcoal, burgers and buns because, let's face it, people in this country are itching to get outside and barbecue as often as they can. So let's hope the next few weeks signal a brighter time for everyone.

Feeling flat

The 2.5% increase in the National Minimum Wage (NMW), announced this week, provoked a curious mixture of relief and frustration. It's a relief because this is a low increase when compared with its predecessors, but it is frustrating nevertheless because it should not have gone up even as much as this.

I support the idea of the minimum wage, but it should be just that, a minimum. What are the grounds for saying that this rate needs to be increased at all? It is supposed to be a check on unscrupulous employers making excessive profits at the expense of their staff, not, as it seems to be, an annual pay rise for hourly rate workers regardless of economic conditions. Where are the c-stores that are exploiting people in this way? As a rule, store owners try to maintain wage costs as a fixed percentage of turnover, so if wage rates go up without any sales growth, the only outcome is for the hours worked to go down and nobody is any better off.

I think that the authorities have missed a tremendous opportunity here. If the minimum wage was retained at the same level for just one year, then any pay rise offered by an employer would, in comparison, appear generous.

Think of the positive effects that this would have on employee morale and productivity across all businesses in the UK, and the economic benefits that would accrue from that.