We are fast approaching the time when the Chancellor outlines his plans for the economy for the coming year. The annual Budget is always an important day in the calendar for us, but this year there will be one announcement that will have a huge impact on convenience stores.
This is the decision on the rate of the National Minimum Wage, and debate about which has been rampant over the past month. Stories abound about a 10% hike which would take the rate to £7 an hour, ignoring the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission.
Comments from the Chancellor that the economy is able to sustain larger increases in the minimum wage do not match up to the experience of convenience retailers. The economy as a whole may now be on an upward curve, but trading conditions and competition in the market are as tough as they have been at any point since this government came into power. Our research shows that when the minimum wage rose by less than 2% last year, more than 80% of retailers had to take action to mitigate the increased costs: cutting paid working hours; delaying business investment; and changing the pay structures of staff. If a 2% rise has that level of impact, a 10% rise would have a lasting, damaging impact on towns and high streets across the UK.
Our Budget submission to the Chancellor this year makes it very clear that the National Minimum Wage should be set in accordance with the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission, and not become a political football for government to try to go one up over their opposition.