The Association of Convenience Stores has blasted the Ministry of Justice for placing a recruitment advert for prison officers that suggested convenience retailers did not get respect.

The advertisement, which appeared in several national newspapers this week, featured a seemingly bored and fed-up shopworker at a till and carried the words: 'How many people's respect did you earn today?'

ACS public affairs manager Shane Brennan said the trade body was "livid" about the ad and had written to Secretary of State for Justice Jack Straw to complain that it was "insulting to the thousands of people who work in convenience retailing".

"This is outrageous," said Brennan. "It is incredibly offensive to grocery retailers and their staff to suggest that what they do does not receive any respect.

"This is particularly disappointing considering that shopworkers are on the front line of policing age-restricted sales and dealing with criminals such as shop thieves, often with minimum assistance from local police or government.

"Government should be actively showing their support to retailers as they deal with the difficulties of the job, not undermining them in this way."