A large number of small English stores are choosing to charge 5p for single-use carrier bags, despite being legally exempt from the scheme.

The 5p carrier bag charge was implemented today (5 October) and applies to all stores and businesses employing 250, or more, full-time equivalent staff.

Despite repeated calls from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) and retailers themselves, small stores have been left out.

Independent retailer Amit Patel, of Belvedere Food and Wine in Kent, is one of those to have started charging for bags despite being legally exempt. “There are three main reasons why I’ve chosen to charge,” he told C-Store. “Firstly I think it will be less confusing for my shoppers if as many stores as possible implement the charge, secondly it will have a positive impact on the environment if carrier bag usage falls, and thirdly, any money that I raise will be given to charity.

“There is an argument that not charging could give small stores a competitive advantage but personally I don’t buy it. I just think it will confuse shoppers. That’s why I’ve been warning mine for weeks. I have posters up in store and so far it’s not been a problem at all,” he added.

Isle of Wight retailer John Perrett,  of the Hunnyhill Group, has also decided to charge.

“We don’t legally have to implement the charge as we don’t have as many as 250 staff however we have decided to join in with it anyway. I think it will be less confusing for shoppers and also I believe in the principal, and the positive impact that it could have on the environment. We will be splitting the proceeds between two local charities: one for humans, and one for animals,” he said.

Ralph Patel, owner of the Look-in, Woodmansterne, said: “We have introduced the charge. It’s something I feel very strongly about and it was a great disappointment that small stores such as mine were not included in the legislation. I’d say that 90% of customers are supportive of what we are doing and all the money raised will be given to The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society - a local charity which supports elderly or disabled seafarers.”

Jacqui Bailey, of Spar London Road Bakery in Boston, Lincolnshire, said: “We’re a small store but are opting into charging for them as we get through a shocking amount volume of carrier bags. We’ve had a poll of our customers to choose a local charity to give the proceeds to and I’m sure that will make for an easier conversation with the customer over charging. So far this morning we’ve only had one negative comment which is less than I was expecting.”

Last month One Stop announced that it was to introduce the 5p charge throughout its entire estate of franchised and company-owned stores in England, in a move to avoid confusion amongst shoppers.