By Daniel Hunter
Figures released from the upcoming ACS Local Shop Report have revealed that small shopkeepers are amongst the hardest working professionals in Britain, with most putting in more than 50 hours a week.
The survey shows that 60% of the nation’s convenience store retailers work more than 50 hours in an average week, while just 7% work fewer than 30 hours a week. They also take very little holiday, with 51% claiming to take less than 10 days off a year while one in five reported taking no holiday at all.
Many local shops are open all year round, even operating on public holidays like Christmas Day to allow their customers to pick up last minute essentials when everywhere else is closed. As many of these stores are small family businesses, there is often no option but to work throughout the year.
According to Office of National Statistics figures for the last quarter, the average working week of most other professions is between 30 and 40 hours a week. Those working in agriculture, forestry and fishing work the most hours on average (45) while those in accommodation and food services work the fewest (28).
“The stores we’re talking about here are our members’ livelihoods, so it’s not surprising that they work long hours to be successful," Association of Convenience Stores Chief Executive James Lowman said.
"Some of our members are in store at four or five in the morning to receive the day’s newspapers and are still there late at night closing up every day of the week.
"You can add to these figures the many hours spent outside the store but working in the community on local events and initiatives. We know that 89% of local shops play an active role in the community, on top of spending every day engaging with customers behind the counter."
Birmingham retailer Rav Garcha said: “Running a convenience store business requires a lot of commitment, we have to be in very early and often don’t leave until the middle of the night. It is satisfying being your own boss and making a success of it, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that at times it’s hard.
"What keeps me going is that my store is at the heart of the local communities and we know our customers like nobody else. I like the opportunity to help the community, like chairing the local community centre and working with schools. That makes the early mornings and late nights worth it.”
Coventry retailer Paul Cheema said: “My family have been running the store for decades, and it’s important to us to be here for our customers every day from first thing in the morning until late at night. Putting in long hours, whether it be in the store or getting stuck in with the community is paramount to the success of our business.”
The hours worked by self-employed retailers as far greater than the legal maximum working week and the minimum holidays required under the Working Time Directive. Under EU rules adopted by the Blair government, workers cannot be forced to work more than 48 hours per week, and must be allowed to take 5.6 weeks holiday - the equivalent of 28 days for full time staff.
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