More than eight in 10 convenience retailers support a freeze in the minimum wage, while a similar proportion have had to reduce staff hours over the past year, new figures from the ACS and SGF reveal.

The ACS and SGF Minimum Wage survey found that increased employment costs had forced 80% of retailers to reduce staff hours, 78% to increase the hours they work, and 67% to delay expansion or investment plans.

On average retailers are currently paying retailers 1.6% above the minimum wage rates but this has dropped from the 2011 survey when they were paying 2.2% above the minimum wage rate.

James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said: “No retailer wants to be a minimum wage employer, however year after year the difference between the average lowest wage and the minimum wage gets smaller. This puts inflationary pressure on wage bills and causes businesses to have to cut back on staff hours and delay investment plans that are vital to achieving growth.”

He added that more than 60% of business owners worked longer than 50 hours a week and 31% took less than 10 days holiday a year. “Growth will not be achieved by heaping greater pressure on the entrepreneurs that we are relying on to secure it,” he said. “That is why we are recommending that the Low Pay Commission recommends a freeze in the national minimum wage.”

The survey collected data from 677 convenience stores with 12,319 employees.

The Low Pay Commission, whose  consultation closed on Monday, will makes its recommendation for the 2013 minimum wage rate to government by February 2013.