The latest survey results from Convenience Store confirms that small retail businesses are being hampered by excessive regulations. Our study, carried out by telephone last month, shows that one in three retailers feel the burden of paperwork is having a detrimental impact on store performance, and more than two thirds feel it could damage financial viability of their store in the future.
Not a single reader interviewed believed 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. One in four readers now spends over 12 hours a week on paperwork, and more than three quarters spend more than three hours a week on it.
But it is the new alcohol licensing regime that is seen by retailers as the most troublesome piece of legislation in recent years. More than half of the retailers in our survey said it was the worst piece of legislation in terms of both the cost and the time taken to sort out.
Ensuring stores meet disability access regulations is also proving both time-consuming and costly, according to our survey, with health and safety, hazardous waste and tax/VAT also being mentioned. Taken as a whole, the burden is driving retailers away from the shop floor and into the back office. More than 60% of retailers are spending less time in their store than they would like because of the mounting paperwork, while a similar number believe that all the administration is threatening the viability of their store.
One solution might be to make small businesses exempt from certain regulations, a course of action favoured by 70% of retailers in our survey.
How much time a week do you spend on paperwork related to your store?
More than 12 hours - 25%
6-12 hours - 11%
3-6 hours - 41%
Less than three hours - 23%
Has the amount of time you spend on paperwork increased or decreased in the past three years?
Increased a lot - 48%
Increased a bit - 22%
Stayed the same - 30%
Have you ever had to employ extra staff because of the burden of paperwork?
No - 70%
Yes - 30%
What is the worst piece of recent legislation in terms of time taken to deal with it?
Licence application - 54%
Disability access - 12%
Health & safety / waste - 8%
VAT - 3%
Others - 5%
No problems / no response - 18%
What is the worst piece of recent legislation in terms of cost to deal with it?
Licence application - 52%
Disability access - 16%
Hazardous waste - 7%
Tax - 5%
VAT - 3%
Others - 4%
No problems / no response - 13%
How much did it cost you to meet the requirements of this legislation?
More than £1,000 - 11%
£500-£1,000 - 8%
£100-£499 - 74%
Less than £100 - 7%
How many times were your premises inspected by officials last year?
1-3 times - 71%
Not at all - 29%
Do you think small businesses should be exempt from certain regulations?
Yes - 70%
No - 30%
Does paperwork mean you are spending less time in the store than you would like?
Yes - 63%
No - 37%
Do you think your store is suffering because of the burden of paperwork?
Is the cost of complying with regulations likely to make your store less financially viable in the future?
Yes - 68%
No - 32%
Survey sample: 100 independent retailers; telephone interviews conducted in August 2005 by The Knowledge Store