Convenience stores’ investment levels have fallen by nearly a quarter over the past 12 months, according to new Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) research.

Convenience retailers have made record investments of almost £300m in their businesses over the last three months

Continuing uncertainty over Brexit and the General Election have led to independent retailers delaying and scaling back investments in their stores, the ACS said.

Its latest Investment Tracker found that the UK’s independent c-stores invested £558m in their businesses in the 12 months to November, down 24% from £737m in the previous year.

For independent retailers, the vast majority of investment is being self-funded, with 68% dipping into their own reserves to pay for improvements and repairs. Just 4% of retailers are receiving bank funding for their investment plans.

The most common form of investment across the sector is refrigeration.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Continuing uncertainty over Brexit and the General Election has led to some convenience retailers holding back on investment plans, which is why we’re seeing a year on year decrease in investment levels overall.

“However, local shops have still invested over half a billion pounds in the last year to improve their businesses, increase the range of services on offer and expand product ranges to keep up with consumer demand. Convenience stores remain huge contributors to both the local and national economy.”

Ahead of the General Election on 12 December, the ACS has called on all major parties to ensure that investment is incentivised through the business rates system as part of a package of wider reforms. 

“The next government must take swift action to address the imbalances in the business rates system. We must ensure that convenience retailers and other small businesses are given the right conditions to be able to invest, instead of being put off by the threat of hikes to their rates bills,” Lowman added.