Millions of pounds have been wiped off the value of Britain's listed retailers amid fears over soaring staff costs from the new national living wage.
Fashion chain Next, Sainsbury's and Debenhams were among the stock market casualties in the second day of share losses for the sector as experts warned they faced significantly higher costs from the plans revealed in yesterday's summer Budget.
Marks & Spencer and Argos owner Home Retail Group were among listed retailers sent as much as 3% lower yesterday after George Osborne unveiled plans for a compulsory "living wage" of £7.20 an hour for over-25s from next year, rising to £9 by 2020.
Next was more than 2% lower in the FTSE 100 Index today, while Sainsbury's fell more than 1% and Debenhams dropped 3% in the FTSE 250.
John Harding, employment tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said businesses needed to prepare for a "significant increase" in staff costs.
He added: "Although this increase will only affect the over 25s they do make up a significant proportion of employees who are either on or just above the current national minimum wage.
Marks & Spencer has reported a 6.1% rise in underlying annual pre-tax profits to £661.2 million.
The rise in profits was driven by an "outstanding year" in food sales which M&S said had exceeded expectations in "a difficult market".
However, the group admitted general merchandise sales "did not meet expectations" despite claiming an improvement in style and quality.
Marc Bolland, the firm's chief executive, said: “We are transforming M&S into a stronger, more agile business – putting the right infrastructure, capabilities and talent in place to drive our strategic priorities.”