Retailers who give staff more responsibility, find skilled people and automate store processes can increase their business’s profitability in a climate of rising staff costs, store owners told RN.

Ferhan Ashiq (pictured), of Levenhall Village Stores in Musselburgh, East Lothian, has done just that – employing staff who have brought new skills to his business and utilising technology.

“We’ve employed two local women – one of them worked in a restaurant and has all the qualifications and experience of hygiene rules,” he said.

“Another was a barista in the local coffee shop and she’s been able to teach my team how to make lattes, cappuccinos and coffees I haven’t even heard of.

“I’ve installed a fingerprint clocking-in system which has a task manager tool allowing me to send through a job list to the team remotely every day. And there are also timers on the fridges which saves money and time.”

Business owners are already struggling to pay the latest National Living Wage (NLW) rate – an increase to £7.50 from the start of this month – and are feeling under pressure as a result of business rate rises and pension auto-enrolment.

Meanwhile, Nick Fraser, retail director of Fraser’s Retail, which runs six Budgens or Spar stores, said as wages go up retailers need to find ways to cultivate value from every member of staff.

“Staff have got to be better trained, have departments to order on, stock-checking, price-checking, rather than it being all the responsibility of the person paid £1 an hour more,” he said.

However, an increase in training would be a struggle for many retailers according to Bolt, an online training resource, which revealed 77% of symbol retailers said a lack of available time directly limits the amount of staff training they are able to implement.

Ian Martin, trading and marketing director at Nisa, said training is “really crucial”. “The people who are succeeding have the right team in place,” he said.