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Indies untroubled by minimum wage hike

Independent retailers are unconcerned about the rise in the national minimum wage, saying a 4% increase is “fair”.

The minimum wage will rise from £5.52 to £5.73 for those over the age of 21 and from £4.60 to £4.77 for those aged between 18 and 20. The change will come into effect from October 2008. According to the British Retail Consortium the hike had disappointed retailers, who had hoped for a rise in line with inflation, which is running at about 2.2%.

But despite rising costs against a backdrop of slower consumer spending, most indies polled by Drapers said they would be unaffected by the increase.

Lynda Heron, manager of designer menswear indie Andrew Gardner in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, welcomed the rise. “It’s hard to find good staff in retail because the industry is not well paid, so a rise is a good thing,” she said. “The increase won’t affect us, as we already pay our staff more than the minimum wage.”

Jenny Mapp, owner of womenswear indie Familytique in Market Bosworth, Warwickshire, agreed. “Our sales are up 23% on last year and we pay above the minimum wage, so the increase won’t affect us,” she said. “If you can’t absorb a 4% increase in staff wages, then there is something wrong with your business.”

Retail union Usdaw also welcomed the rises. General secretary John Hannett said: “It will increase the quality of life for many of our members.”

Craig Benson, co-owner of womenswear retailer Black Orchid in Stamford, Lincolnshire, was in favour of the increase, but admitted he may have to make cuts elsewhere. “Considering the rise in utility bills, the increase will help staff,” he said. “We try to pay above the minimum wage, but we may have to be more cautious with our buying.”

But Julie Volante, owner of womenswear retailer Joolz in Birmingham, was “shocked” by the rise. “We may have to cut back on staff discounts,” she said.

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