Hard-hit retailers face further pressure as the latest rise in the National Minimum Wage has added to their financial burden.

The minimum rate for those above 22 years of age has increased from £5.52 to £5.73 per hour, a hike which does not replicate past above-inflation increases, but will still come as a blow to many independent retailers struggling to make a profit in the current economic climate.

However, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has urged the Low Pay Commission (LPC) to recommend a “significant” increase in the minimum wage for next year.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber called on the LPC to “reject employer scaremongering” over higher rates. “It is entirely predictable that some employer groups will say that the minimum wage increase will threaten jobs, yet it has helped millions without causing significant job losses,” he said.

He added: “The LPC should robustly reject employer scaremongering and recognise the higher inflation faced by the low paid when it sets next year’s increase.”

His comments have enraged independent retailers who say that they could be forced to lay off staff or stop filling empty posts as a result.

The minimum wage has also risen from £4.60 to £4.77 an hour for 18- to 22-year-olds, and from £3.40 to £3.53 for 16- and 17-year-olds from October 1.
Retailers’ views
How will the NMW rise affect you?

Mary Carter The Li’le Superstore, Askam-in-Furness, Cumbria
“We can’t go on like this; everything is going up – water rates, tax, business rates. I’ve been in retail for more than 50 years, but I’m starting to doubt I’ll make it for another two. I’m one of few retailers left in this area because of rising costs and competition from the supermarkets.”

Tim Lake Redlands Stores, Fareham, Hampshire
“Where will it end? I think that many retailers are going to stop replacing employees when they leave and take on more hours themselves. It’s going to become incredibly stressful, but what option do we have?”

Mair Evans Londis Caernarfon, Gwynedd
“It’s another cost which creates more pressure on margins. We’re going to have to cut costs in some way and the only area that can really be done is in staffing.”

Martin Hall RS McColl, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen
“I don’t think anyone will lose their jobs as a result of the increase, but I do think that prices will rise because of it.”