Small Business

At your convenience? Store owners working too hard

While working for yourself and the enjoyment of helping out people with their lives may hold a lot of appeal for independent retailers; rising property prices, the battle with online shopping and long, tough hours are taking their toll on convenience store owners, research shows.

In the U.K, 25 percent of the country's 51,524 convenience store owners are choosing to work over 70 hours a week on average – nearly double the amount allowed by U.K. law, according to a report published this week.

If that wasn't laborious enough, the "2015 Local Shop Report" by Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) shows that a fifth of the 51,524 shop-owners are taking no holiday whatsoever during the year.

Trying to please everyone

Akos Stiller | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With the number U.K. convenience stores rising (50,747 in 2014), managers feel their stores need to stay open to customers in order to keep afloat.

Chris Noice, head of communications at Association of Convenience Stores, told CNBC over the phone that retailers were seeing increased costs in their business, therefore by extending their own work shifts and opening hours, owners could take advantage of different customer markets.

"We're likely to see an increase in this in coming years, as pressure increases on national living wage where retailers will look to take on more hours than they currently do. I expect that number (25 percent) to go up next year and the years after that," said Noice.

André Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at Cass Business School, told CNBC that managers are choosing to working longer because of "the rise of the 24-hour society."

"We (businesses) are increasingly being expected to provide as much convenience as possible. This could be driven partially by changes in social attitudes, partially by the relaxation of laws and the decline in things like tradition," Spicer said.

People can log into Amazon or shop online anytime they want, and this thought is then reflected in expectations towards convenience stores, he added.

Good for the business?

While studies have shown how working longer isn't good for one's wellbeing or business, Noice said if it wasn't a viable sector then shopkeepers wouldn't choose to work the hours or stay in the same business for years.

"These are very hardworking people, but the rewards are there," Noice said, adding that the U.K. has some of the most hardworking employees (in that sector) globally. Other countries often provide larger workforces and retail spaces.

You're spending too much time in the office: Leave!

However, it may not be so good on managers' physical health.

"Working longer hours can have an impact on your health, especially irregular hours" said Spicer who said the rate of having a stroke and heart attack go up significantly with stress and night shifts.

Managers don't have the level of resources available to them compared to big supermarket chains, so if they increase their hours, they think they'll be able to compete, Spicer said, suggesting that actually owners need to analyze their schedules thoroughly and potentially hire a greater workforce.


Scott Olsen | Getty Images News | Getty Images

In 2014, a retail member survey by National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), U.S. convenience stores often chose to stay open late or through the night, because "sales justified it" (68 percent) and this is what the community likely wants (64 percent).

The same survey highlighted that the most common visitors overnight were irregular shift workers, looking to purchase snacks or essentials like gasoline. Staying open for later helped the store too, allowing them to prepare for the morning rush and deliveries.

Jeff Lenard, vice-president of strategic industry initiatives at NACS, told CNBC via email that there are 152,794 convenience stores in the United States and in that total, 63 percent are one-store operators.

"Those (one-store operators) are the most likely to work longer hours, assuming that they are family businesses where multiple members can pitch in."

Trouble unplugging from work? Join the crowd

In 2014, U.S. convenience store industry had record in-store sales of $213.5 billion, along with motor fuels sales of $482.6 billion, (overall industry sales at $696.1 billion), according to NACS, demonstrating how valuable convenience is to the everyday consumer.

Lenard added it was hard to say how many are family run and staffed, or the exact working hours, yet, he suggested bodega owners (small city shops) most likely work the longest hours.

"The U.S. industry tends to be a bit more sophisticated in operations because of petrol sales. Convenience stores sell most of the petrol in the U.S. and 84 percent of stores sell fuel. As most consumers buy fuel based on price, you are really competing against everyone also selling it."

—By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs, follow her on Twitter @AlexGibbsy.