Retail leaders have clashed over the government’s plans for a 1.9% rise in the minimum wage.

The increase, which will come into effect from October, was described as a “barrier to growth” by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).

It claimed its research showed 80% of retailers had reduced staff hours because of the minimum wage and nearly 70% were putting off investment plans.

“In the current economic climate, the right decision for businesses would have been to freeze the minimum wage,” said ACS chief executive James Lowman.

“Our research has shown that retailers have little choice but to reduce staff hours and delay further business investment when the minimum wage is increased.”

However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the increase, from £6.19 to £6.31 per hour, was a show of “restraint” by ministers.

“This strikes the right balance between helping workers on the lowest incomes and reflecting the realities of current conditions,” said director general Helen Dickinson.