Damaging retail cost increases were the focus of the annual Heart of the Community Conference organised by the Association of Convenience Stores, attended by more than 150 forecourt and convenience retailers.

The event encourages retailer engagement with MPs and featured Minister of State for Business and Enterprise Michael Fallon, and Shadow Secretary of State for Business Chuka Umunna. Later came a Parliamentary reception at the House Commons Terrace, which enabled retailers to mix with their invited MPs, and included short presentations by Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; and Priti Patel, MP for Witham.

During the conference, which was hosted by Radio 5 Live’s chief political correspondent, John Pienaar, ACS chief executive James Lowman said: "We are reaching a critical point where despite being some of the hardest working people in the UK, convenience store owners are facing cost-cutting measures in several aspects of their business."

Lowman said reckless minimum wage increases meant fewer jobs, less investment, and reduced incentive for entrepreneurs to deliver growth in communities up and down the country.

He also spoke about the high cost of crime against small shops, and said business rates were too high.