The number of jobs provided by the convenience store sector has fallen for the first time since 2012 as growing wage costs start to bite.

The small stores sector currently provides jobs for 390,000 people, down from 407,000 in 2015, figures from the Association of Convenience Stores’ (ACS) 2016 Local Shop Report reveal.

The report also shows that more staff are working part-time hours, with many retailers also taking on more work themselves.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “For the first time since we started this research in 2012, we have seen a decline in job numbers as well as more staff working part-time hours. This is consistent with the feedback from other ACS surveys showing retailers cutting back on staff hours to cope with the big increases in wage costs, not least because of the National Living Wage.”

The National Living Wage is currently predicted to hit £9.03 per hour by 2020, if wage rates continue to rise at their current trajectory.

The Local Shop Report has also revealed that convenience store owners are some of the hardest-working entrepreneurs in the UK, with 24% of retailers working more than 70 hours per week and 22% taking no holiday at all throughout the year.

The report’s findings were echoed by Sally Croft, co-owner of Croft Stores (Nisa) in Silverstone, Northamptonshire. “My brother Matt and I almost always work 12-hour days in the store, and that’s not including computer work in the evenings once we’ve closed for business,” she said.

”Fortunately, we’ve not had to cut back on staff just yet, although we know of many retailers who have. We have, however, spent time upskilling existing staff so that they can contribute to more areas of the business. Matt and I are also taking on more work ourselves. It’s not ideal, but it’s what we feel has to be done in order to maintain standards and our unique offer to the local community.”

Other solutions

“Wage hikes are putting a strain on business. My wife Arti and I are putting in more time as opposed to recruiting new staff or increasing hours. It was challenging over the summer when we were busier than usual.”

Romi Mediratta, Lane End Londis, High Wycombe

“We have started to use more students part-time. Using students means staff levels naturally drop off in the winter months without us having to cut back.”

Charles Brading, Vic’s Stores, Isle of Wight

Vital statistics

Local shops remain a vital source of employment and across the UK the convenience store sector provides jobs for 390,000 people, according to the ACS Local Shop Report 2016. Most of these jobs are in England, where 332,136 people are employed, with a further 42,430 people employed in Scottish c-stores and 24,674 in Wales.

Some 60% of c-store workers are women, and 19% are aged between 16 and 24. A further 11% are aged over 60.

The total number of UK c-stores again grew year-on-year, according to data supplied by WRBM, publisher of Convenience Store.