Small stores affected by changes to Palmer & Harvey’s minimum order quantities are being encouraged to adapt or work together to minimise the extra costs.

As part of recent changes to its delivery structure, P&H introduced charges of £15 for chilled, frozen and ambient orders under the minimum order quantity.

“The changes we are making to our minimum order quantities are still less than many other wholesalers. In addition, we do not have Low or No Order Surcharges like some delivered wholesalers,” a P&H spokesman said.

But Tim Abram, manager of community-owned Abbots Ann Village Shop near Andover, said the charges “wipe out our entire margin”.

“We have no route for supply that allows us to break even on these products and just before Christmas on these products.

“We are a community-owned rural retailer, our volumes are small and we only survive on volunteer staff and donations from the residents, we are effectively non-profit making - any surplus is returned to other village causes to support our community,” he added.

“The additional ‘small charge’ amounts to £1,500 per year let alone the additional admin costs, more than our annual surplus.”

But James Alcock, head of frontline for Plunkett Foundation, the national body supporting rural community shops, urged store to work together to minimise the cost of deliveries.

“Many community-owned shops find that joining forces with others in their local area brings a range of opportunities, from meeting minimum orders for suppliers to sharing the cost of deliveries. We encourage all community shops to explore the wider benefits that co-operation can bring,” he said.

Debbie Lucas, manager of a nearby community-owned shop, Clatfords Village Store, said there were “ways round it”.

“We often just order once a fortnight to order enough and I go to the local supermarket for chilled. You just forward plan,” she added.