More than two-thirds of independent retailers fear their store is becoming less financially viable due to the cost of implementing new government regulations, according to a new survey by Convenience Store.

The telephone poll of 100 independent retailers shows just how much time and money new legislation such as alcohol licensing and disability access is drawing away from the c-store trade. More than 60% of retailers are spending less time in their store than they would like because of mounting paperwork, with one in three thinking their store has been adversely affected by the time and expense required to comply with new regulations.

Not a single reader interviewed thought that the amount of paperwork had decreased in the past three years, and around half said it had ‘increased a lot’. The burden is now so great that 30% of retailers have had to employ extra staff to cope with it. Top of the list of offending legislation was the new alcohol licensing regime, which was named by more than half of the survey as the most expensive and time-consuming issue they have had to deal with recently. As many as 93% of readers said it cost more than £100 to sort out their new style licence, with 11% saying the total bill was more than £1,000.

The government has made a number of recent pronouncements that it wants to reduce the burden of red tape for businesses, but C-Store’s findings show it will have its work cut out to convince the c-store industry. It is currently consulting on a new Deregulation Bill, scheduled to be introduced to Parliament soon after it reconvenes next month, while a new Consumer Trading and Standards Agency will be set up to help reduce the number of premises inspections required. However, under the current regime no reader had seen their premises inspected more than three times in the past year, and 29% had not had any official inspections at all. A better solution might be to make small businesses exempt from certain regulations, a course of action favoured by 70% of retailers, according to our survey.