Regulations surrounding the sale of tobacco products will continue to dominate as further new laws come into force. The government is expected to adopt a 'negative' licensing scheme later this year, under which retailers who fail more than three test purchase stings in a two-year period could lose the right to sell tobacco for up to one year.
The Department of Health will also be consulting on plans to restrict the size and location of cigarette displays this spring.
Meanwhile, the death knell for non child-resistant lighters will sound on March 11, while from October 1, 2008 pictorial health warnings will have to be displayed on all tobacco products supplied by UK manufacturers.
The government is expected to announce the new National Minimum Wage (NMW) rate in March, ahead of its implementation in October. It also has plans to introduce tough new penalties for businesses failing to pay it.
And it doesn't end there. Regulations governing waste management, health and safety, holiday entitlement, staff training and even chewing gum will all figure heavily over the next 12 months as the government cracks its legislative whip.
Last November the government offered the industry a shred of hope when it announced it was to bring forward measures to cut red tape in the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill.
The Bill will give powers to a single national body, the Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO), to provide consistent advice, and will ensure that regulators do not impose unnecessary burdens on small businesses. However, with research by the Federation of Small Businesses revealing that small businesses spend more than seven hours a week filling in forms and reporting to regulators, the LBRO will have its work cut out.
James Lowman, chief executive, association of convenience stores
"This year the government will be looking to introduce a range of new laws that will affect the sector. The Education and Skills Bill will require young people to stay in education or training up to the age of 18. If the Bill passes, employers who do not provide training themselves will have a duty to release young people one day a week to attend another training course, and will be required to check that employees under 18 are taking part in training. This Bill looks set to put particular onus on the retailer and could add significant costs. This Bill should also be a warning to retailers who are not making training available to all staff - if you don't do this, the government will start to push you to.
"The Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill aims to tackle red tape by setting up the Local Better Regulation Office to bring consistency to regulation and regulatory bodies. Although the goal is to reduce unnecessary regulations, ACS' concern is that the Bill will hand extensive additional powers to enforcers that could harm small businesses.
"ACS will watch these developments closely."
David Newman, Westhill Stores, East Sussex
"Legislation is the greatest burden on the way I run my business because of the time I have to devote to dealing with it. More legislation means less time in the store and more time in the office. It also means a huge amount of time training and re-training my staff. I used to be a shopkeeper, now I feel more like a human resources manager.
"Legislation is also a huge cost burden. Next year's increase in holiday entitlement will really put me under strain as I will need to take on extra staff to cover for the absent ones. It will probably amount to an extra £10,000. The supermarkets don't have to worry about things like this as they have vast HR departments, whereas I'm on my own."