Retail industry organisations welcomed Tuesday’s decision on a 1.2 per cent rise in the national minimum wage, despite some earlier calls for a total freeze this year.

The increase will take the rate from £5.73 to £5.80 an hour when it is introduced this October.

Most big retailers already pay above the minimum rate and the heaviest burden is likely to fall on smaller groups and independents.

A B&Q spokesperson said: “B&Q pays above the national minimum wage and has no differentiation of rates of pay according to age. We were expecting this announcement and can now incorporate this in to our review plans.”

Neil Turton, chief executive of convenience store group Nisa-Today’s, said: “It would have been more beneficial to our members if the rate had remained static.

However, a larger rise would have been more difficult for smaller retail businesses to absorb in an already difficult trading environment.”

In its evidence to the Low Pay Commission in this year’s review, the British Retail Consortium called for this autumn’s increase to be no more than 1.5 per cent. BRC director-general Stephen Robertson described the rise as “the right decision for these difficult times”. 

Shopworkers’ union Usdaw broadly supported the rise and a spokeswoman said an increase in the minimum wage often has an “incremental impact upwards” on lower pay bands.

However, Usdaw general secretary John Hannett added: “Usdaw would have liked to have seen a bigger increase, as a significant number of low-paid workers rely on this review for their annual pay increase. The minimum wage is an important right for workers and needs to be protected.”

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “We believe there was a strong case for no increase this
year. However, we welcome the restraint of what is the lowest ever annual increase in the national minimum wage.”

British Shops and Stores Association chief executive John Dean said he was “delighted and relieved” about a “pragmatic stance in accepting the importance of limiting the impact on payroll costs”.