Tough competition and rising costs mean convenience store owners are taking home less than the minimum wage in order to keep their businesses going, according to the latest figures released by the Association of Convenience Stores.

The Voice of Local Shops Survey, which polled over 1,100 independent retailers across the country, has revealed that 55% of shop owners believe that when compared to the number of hours they work, they currently earn less than the minimum wage from their business (currently £6.19 per hour). Furthermore, more than two thirds (69%) of independent retailers believe they earn less per hour than the living wage (£7.45 per hour).

In 2012, the convenience retail sector was worth £33.9bn, accounting for a fifth of the entire grocery sector. More than 49,000 stores across the nation employ more over 372,000 people, but many are working long hours to keep their stores afloat in the current economic climate. The ACS Local Shop Report released in September revealed that 60% of those surveyed work more than 50 hours a week, while 31% take less than 10 days holiday a year.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We already know that retailers are some of the hardest working professionals in the UK, but we didn’t know the shocking extent to which their budgets are squeezed to make ends meet. Rising business rate bills, energy costs and increasing competition from small format supermarkets are all contributing factors to the figures that we have published today.

"These figures show how committed and resilient independent retailers are. Faced with a tough economic climate, rising costs and competitive pressures, retailers are working harder than ever. They do it because they love their job and are committed to serving local communities. This is shown by the continued investments they are making in their communities despite the pressure they are under.”

The survey also showed that nationally, 80% of retailers are active in their communities with the most popular form of engagement being collecting money for local or national charities.