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HSBC marks out the winners and losers from the national living wage

Helen Cahill
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The analysts said that retailers will be hit hardest by the changes (Source: Getty)

HSBC has today outlined how businesses can combat the cost pressures of the national living wage - and the kind of companies that will be the winners and losers from the legislation.

The best way to offset the new costs is to find productivity growth, HSBC analysts said in a note, although "this would require a sharp turnaround from its recent dismal performance."

Read more: MPs call for debate on "loopholes" in national living wage legislation

If the economy slows in 2017, this will temper the rate at which the national living wage rises, because it is linked to median hourly pay.

The effect of the legislation is, therefore, "blunted by Brexit", HSBC said, but it is still a problem for superstore retailers, which operate on low margins with a low-pay workforce.

"It is another example of cost inflation outpacing price inflation," HSBC said.

However, discounters could be set to benefit. The higher wage bill will favour retailers such as Aldi and Lidl because their costs are lower overall.

In addition, retailers that focus on gaining market share - which Aldi and Lidl have been focusing on - will win out as costs rise.

Women will also do well out of the living wage, because they make up a larger proportion of the low-paid workforce than men do, HSBC said.

Read more: M&S shells out £100m for pension changes and payments to ease pay cut pain

Several retailers, such as M&S, have been cutting pay and jobs following the introduction of the living wage. A group of employees at Tesco recently announced that they would be taking the supermarket to court over the practice.

But HSBC said in its note that these actions where not strictly necessary.

"For the economy as a whole, the corporate share of income is currently quite high, suggesting firms can increase pay without large price rises or headcount reduction," the bank said.

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