Concern among independent retailers about the impact of the looming hike in the national minimum wage is clearly reflected in our latest Reader Panel survey.
Although most of the retailers we quizzed described themselves as family businesses not employing staff on the national minimum wage, a sizeable minority did ­ and they employed 115 people.
Of those employing staff on the national minimum wage, 68% felt the hike would increase their costs.
Most have not been able to quantify the full impact it will have on their businesses. Only a handful were confident enough to say the increase in costs would be negligible, mainly because they already seem to pay above the national minimum wage, while 8% of those quizzed said the increase in costs would be significant.
And one third of retailers who said their costs would go up warned that they would have to cut staff hours when the hike comes into effect. "We are already implementing a decrease in staff hours in readiness for the changes in October," said one retailer.
Another said: "Our business is already on a downward spiral so one of our part timers will have to go."
And a third told us: "One of our two members of staff on the national minimum wage will have to go in October, as opposed to cutting the hours worked by both of them."
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive David Rae said the rise in minimum wage would cause price rises as well as reduced staffing and opening hours.
He said: "Our experience suggests that in the south you have to pay over the minimum wage to get the staff anyway.
"The fact that more businesses are not planning staff cuts perhaps reflects the regional nature of pay."
He added: "While there's no way I can support the increase, at least the Low Pay Commission has recognised the fact that pay increases have to be phased to allow planning, rather than a big hike one year and a small increase the next."
The government plans to put the minimum wage up for adults to £4.50 in October and provisionally to £4.85 in October 2004, following a recommendation by the Low Pay Commission.

{{NEWS }}