A new report published by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) highlights the contribution the convenience sector makes to the UK economy.

The 2019 Local Shop Report reveals that the 46,388 stores in the UK convenience sector currently employ around 405,000 people, generating sales of more than £40.3bn over the last year.

Key findings from this year’s report include:

• Convenience store retailers have invested £633m in the last year on improving their stores, extending the range of services available to customers and making their businesses more efficient;

• Post Offices and convenience stores are the top two services that have a positive impact on a local area;

• 19% of independent convenience store owners work more than 70 hours a week;

• 26% of convenience store customers visit their local shop every day.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Despite challenging retail conditions over the last year, convenience stores have invested over £633m, improving their businesses and taking on a wider range of products and services to meet the needs of ever more demanding consumers. The UK’s network of convenience stores has remained resilient, in part due to the entrepreneurial spirit of thousands of independent retailers that have continued to change, adapt and develop their stores.

“Our local shops are not immune to pressures however. The cost of business rates still hits hard, especially for those looking to invest, and as an employer of around 405,000 people, any unpredictable increases in wage rates will have a real impact. One in five independent retailers already works more than 70 hours per week, and it is often by taking on more hours in the business themselves where retailers make up the shortfall in other areas.”

New figures in this year’s report have highlighted the potential impact that a no deal Brexit would have on the convenience sector:

• Almost one in four independent retailers (23%) have reported that they do not have any additional space in their store;

• 45% of independent retailers rely on deliveries from wholesalers for their products, while 34% get all of their products from a cash and carry.

Lowman continued: “The vast majority of stores in the convenience sector do not have direct control over their supply chain, so will be significantly affected in the event of disruption as a result of no deal. This is particularly problematic for the 23% of independent retailers that have no additional space in their stores to stockpile products.

“Convenience stores have a unique reach into every community, so it’s absolutely essential that the regular delivery and supply of products to our sector is maintained in the event of disruption as a result of no deal, especially for isolated communities where their local shop is the only place for people to get everyday groceries for miles around.”

ACS is currently finalising further guidance for retailers to prepare them for potential disruption in the event of a no deal Brexit.