The Association of Convenience Stores has blasted the increase in the national minimum wage for 18 to 21 year olds. Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state for trade and industry, has announced that from October 1 the rate will be increased from £3.20 to £3.50 an hour, and rise again to £3.60 in October 2002. The association's public affairs manager James Lowman said the increase would add to retailer costs, particularly because c-stores traditionally employ a lot of younger people. He warned: "These extra costs will hit the retailers who can least afford them. "In prosperous areas, retailers have to pay above the minimum wage in order to recruit staff. Retailers in less prosperous areas will be hit hardest." However, Lowman pointed out that the increase of 9% was less than the increase for adults announced in March. That rise increases the rate from £3.70 to £4.10 in October and up again to £4.20 in October 2002. He added that announcing the rise for October 2002 ­ well in advance ­ would allow retailers to plan ahead. {{NEWS }}