C-store retailers invested more in their businesses over the last three months than both the previous quarter and the same period in 2016, but more are cutting staff hours, according to new figures from the Association of Convenience Stores.
Its latest investment survey found that UK stores invested £193m in their businesses between March and May, up from £154m in the previous quarter and £181m in the same quarter in 2016.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Despite uncertainty on both a domestic and international level, convenience store owners have remained committed to making investments in their stores to reduce costs in the long term and provide a better service for consumers.
“Some convenience stores have taken on specialist services like bakery counters, post offices and even pharmacies that would otherwise not be offered to local customers, all of which require investment to be successful.”
However, more retailers have reported that they are cutting staff hours than last quarter after the National Living Wage was raised to £7.50 per hour in April.
One in four retailers have invested in till systems over the last quarter, which could suggest that investment is being made in self-service tills given the decrease in the number of staff hours in the sector, the ACS said.
“Many retailers now have to strike a difficult balance between using technology in their business to make their stores more efficient, and retaining the personal touch that the sector has been traditionally known for,” Lowman added.
“These decisions will have to be made on an individual basis, but with employment costs continuing to rise we expect more stores to look for efficiencies in the near future.”
In total over the last year, the convenience sector has invested £858m on business improvements, refurbishments and store refits.