We’ve just published our first-ever Local Shop Report in which we have combined some of the well-known data on the sector with new ACS research which sheds light on the real value of local shops. The results show more vividly than ever that c-stores whether they operate on a petrol forecourt or are standalone are a crucial part of the economy. Here’s why:

Firstly, as a sector, we employ over 372,000 people. That’s nearly 1.5% of the working population, bigger than any single private sector employer (Tesco, inevitably, holds that honour). And over half of the staff employed in the sector are either over 60 or under 24. It’s in local shops that people get their first experiences of work, and a chance to use their skills in later life.

Looking at the independent part of the market, the Local Shops Report gives us an accurate picture of entrepreneurship and ethnicity. Seventy per cent of c-store owners are new investors, which rubbishes the myth that the sector’s dominated by families. Every government talks about promoting entrepreneurship, and these figures show that local shops are at the heart of this agenda.

Our sector also fails to conform to the Arkwright stereotype of the time-serving older, male retailer. More than half of owners are under 50 and nearly one in three are women. With an equal number of owners being Asian and white British, and with a host of languages being spoken by retailers, this is exactly the sort of diverse, vibrant sector that government should be backing.

Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities right now for government to deliver for local shops. Maintaining Sunday trading laws would be a huge win for our members.

There is also an opportunity to act on business rates.

If you want to find out about how to get more involved in lobbying government on these issues, mark November 27 in your diary. This is when we’re holding our fourth annual Heart of the Community conference which, for the first time, will include a Community Masterclass.

There will also be a chance to meet with MPs after the conference and the whole event is free to attend, so get in touch with us by emailing sarah.johnson@acs.org.uk to book your place.