from John Hannett, general secretary, Usdaw

Sir; I was delighted to find that two thirds of independent retailers agreed with the principle of a rise in the national minimum wage, as revealed in The Grocer's recent survey into the impact of the forthcoming 35p increase in the minimum rate employers must pay their staff (The Grocer, April 22, p8).

Usdaw has long been arguing for significant increases in the minimum wage and we firmly believe a 35p per hour increase is no threat to the survival of independent retailers.

It is our view that any well-run business can sustain the rise, as this needs to be offset against the cost of replacing staff who would leave poorly paid jobs in the independent sector for better wages with other retailers.

So we are slightly perplexed when 40% of respondents say they will "ditch staff" because it is not in their business interest to do so, and that a fifth of retailers say it would threaten the future of their business.

When we last looked at bankruptcies in the retail sector, we didn't find one store going out of business that cited the minimum wage for their demise. They did cite factors such as severe competition, high interest rates, bad debts/overdraft problems and poor sales figures.

I want to reassure independent retailers that rewarding staff properly won't harm their business, but will actually make them better able to survive in what we all know is a very competitive sector.