By Max Clarke

Unpredictable increases to the National Minimum Wage are hurting local retailers, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has said.

The body representing more than 35,000 convenience stores across the UK argues that the number of National Minimum Wage (NMW) increases is adding a burden to small retailers at a time of retail uncertainty. Since the NMW was first set by Tony Blair in 1999, it has risen incrementally from £3.90 to its current rate of £5.93. In October 2011 it will rise again to £6.08.

“Employment costs are the biggest outgoing for convenience store retailers and unpredictable minimum wage increases at a time when the other costs of running a business are skyrocketing will only lead to more staff being laid off,” said ACS Chief Executive James Lowman.

“The most effective way of influencing the Low Pay Commission is to give them the facts about how retailers react to change in the minimum wage, and this survey is extremely important in making sure retailers get their voices heard.”

Retail across the UK is in decline, with employment in the sector having declined for three consecutive quarters as high street vacancies exceed 14.5%. Adding to the cost of employing staff will prevent boosting headcount in the sector.

Unions, however, support rate rises, as comments TUC (Trades Union Congress) General Secretary, Brenden Barber: "The increases in minimum wage rates show that the government understands the NMW must remain an important part of working life."

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