Last month we launched the fifth edition of our centrepiece research project on the convenience sector, the Local Shop Report. The report shows that overall, the sector remains in growth with over £37.5bn generated annually in sales and around 390,000 staff employed across the UK.
The forecourt sector specifically also remains in good health, with £4bn generated through an estate of around 8,700 stores. However, for the first time this year since we started putting together the report in 2012, there has been a reduction in the average number of people working in each store across the convenience sector and a move to those people working shorter part-time hours.
We believe that the reason for this decline in staff numbers is a result of cutbacks made in stores due to the introduction of the National Living Wage.
Another potential factor in the cutbacks in staff hours specific to the forecourt sector is the impact of business rate costs. Our message to government on rates has always been that forecourt stores are unfairly targeted by the business rates system due to these stores having high turnover but not necessarily high profit margins on fuel. With the new rating list for businesses imminent after being delayed for two years, there is also the issue of uncertainty around future rates bills and how that impacts business owners’ decision making on things like future investment plans as well as more immediate issues like staff hours.
One of the most valuable ways that we use the data from the report is to find out specific information about the number of stores and staff in each constituency, which we send to every MP to demonstrate the important role that local shops play in their area.
We’re currently in the process of hosting store visits to allow retailers to talk directly to MPs about the issues facing their store, which will culminate at Heart of the Community, our annual political conference where we hope to see as many of you as possible. If any issues are impacting on your business, you need to attend this conference or get an MP into your store to add your voice to our work to get a better deal for c-stores. If you would like to arrange a store visit with your local MP, get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org