Small business minister Kelly Tolhurst has commended the work of retailers and their staff in the convenience sector, highlighting the positive impact that they have on their local communities and affirming the government’s commitment to support local shops.

The minister appeared at the Association of Convenience Stores’ Heart of the Community reception to celebrate the progress that has been made on providing healthier choices for customers, tackling loneliness in isolated communities and developing the skills of young people through apprenticeships.

Speaking at the Heart of the Community reception in the Houses of Parliament, Tolhurst said: “As entrepreneurial small businesses, local shops are a vital part of both our economy and our society, serving as so much more than a shop, but also as a hub for local people and a voice in our communities.

“We are committed to supporting and promoting this positive impact and this is why I am so pleased to be the co-chair of the Retail Sector Council, and why I am delighted to have James Lowman representing the convenience sector’s views.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We are delighted to be able to join colleagues from the Campaign to End Loneliness and the Food Foundation in celebrating the leading work that the convenience sector is doing to tackle loneliness, promote apprenticeships and help customers make healthier choices.

“We welcome the minister’s support and recognition of the important role that local shops play in communities in these areas, and will continue to work with government to promote the achievements of retailers and their staff.”