Most people agree with paying a fair day's wage. But what does it mean for small retailers?

Few people, whether they are managers or workers, would argue with the principle of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. But for independent retailers struggling to meet rising costs including rent, rates and energy bills, the boost to minimum wage rates due to be introduced on October 1 is a bitter pill to swallow. And it's especially hard to stomach hard on the heels of a previous rise, implemented just a year earlier.

Predictably, opinion at AF Blakemore's cash and carry depot near Birmingham was split between independents who employ a few staff and those who manage larger workforces.

Nick Blackmore, manager of a store in Solihull, says he'll be hit hard by the new rise from £5.05 to £5.35 an hour for workers older than 21. "I've got eight employees and all of them work 15 or 16 hours per day. It's going to be a nightmare," he says. "All of their pay has to come out of the bottom line." He shrugs his shoulders and adds fatalistically: "We're going to have to cut back on something. It will either mean reducing staff hours or employing fewer staff." How much this will affect the quality of store standards remains to be seen, he says. "This is going to put a big squeeze on retailers like me."

However, some retailers with a smaller workforce took a different perspective. "We will battle on," says Stephen Brown, manager of CH Brown & Son, a convenience store in Stechford, Birmingham. "We pay £5.50 an hour anyway, which is above the current minimum wage. And we'll probably have pushed that up to £6 by October."

He adds: "If you don't pay decent money, you run the risk of not being able to find workers who do a decent job. My view is that if you look after your staff, they will look after your customers. And £5.35 per hour is still not a lot of money to work for at the end of the day."

Mohan Singh Kandola, manager of K's Wines, an off-licence and grocery store in Birmingham, says he's also in a fortunate position. "I'm not particularly worried. Our kind of shop doesn't involve that much work. The rest of my family help out, so I don't have to pay anything."

In general, wage hikes hit the smaller retailer harder. Views expressed by Saj Lokat, manager of Campus Wines, a Lifestyle Express c-store and off-licence near Birmingham University, represent those of many small-scale retailers. He sums up his position: "I've only got a couple of part-time staff, so I'm not too concerned. If you're a larger retailer then it's a different matter, but even so, I do think wages need to keep pace with the cost of living."