The introduction of a £7.20 national living wage next year could put over 24,000 stores and 80,000 jobs at risk, according to new research.
Analysis by the Association of Convenience Stores also found that the policy would cost the convenience sector £166m - while the increased employment allowance would provide comparatively small compensation for convenience stores.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We have always supported a national minimum wage, but the move to a higher compulsory national living wage will have a devastating impact on our sector.
“Our analysis only looks at the increase to a £7.20 national living wage from 2016, and as this rises to £9 by 2020 there could be far greater effect than even these figures suggest. This analysis is backed up by evidence provided by our members which shows that they will be closing stores and laying staff off as a result of this policy.
“The chancellor must face up to the impact of the national living wage on businesses, and continue to let the independent Low Pay Commission set rates through to 2020.”
He also called on the government to look at other ways of supporting retailers hit by the national living wage.
Heather Tingle, owner of Flask End village stores in Yorkshire, said she cancelled a vacancy she had advertised pre-Budget because of the living wage announcement. “I would love to pay my staff more, but I’m between a rock and a hard place - either I do all the work myself or I end up closing the store,” she said.
The ACS will be working with the Low Pay Commission and a range of government departments to make its case and press for an affordable policy on pay.