UK riots: Businesses face 'huge' costs

Liz Pilgrim from Ealing: 'Feral rats looted my business'

Businesses affected by the riots that have taken place over the last few days face "huge costs", the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned.

The BRC said it was too early to count the exact cost of the damage but said shops were being closed early across London and some would not open at all.

The BRC added that London's reputation could be hurt.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) also said that the damage could be long-term and far-reaching.

"The violence that we've seen over the last three nights - it's not only against individuals but it's destroying the very fabric of society, not just for now but for years to come and that's why the government has to get a grip of this," the BCC's director general David Frost said.

"We're looking for very clear leadership from the prime minister to say that this wanton vandalism is going to be clamped down on as of today and we will not see any further moves or action as we've seen over recent days."

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain's streets."

TV impact

The BRC said that retailers of all sizes had suffered damage.

"There are huge costs being incurred and employment lost because shops are closing down across the capital early. Some shops won't be opening tomorrow," Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said.

"The problem is that here we are, we're on the verge of the Olympics when we're hoping to [send] a great message to the world about what a great capital this is to come to.

"We mustn't underestimate the fact that the pictures on our television screens were beamed to the world last night."

David Frost: 'The government has to get a grip of this'

Liz Pilgrim, a small business owner from Ealing in West London, described the rioters who looted her premises as "feral rats".

"My message to the Home Office is just to get a grip. We need to engage with these disillusioned youths who aren't forming any part of society at the moment," she told the BBC.

'Frightened customers'

As well as the costs of repairing the damage to stores, many firms have been shutting their doors early and will be losing out on vital trading hours, in what is already a difficult consumer environment.

Nadeem Sheikh, who works in Pound Kingdom in Ealing Broadway, said they had no choice but to close early.

"It is not safe for shops. A lot of places have been burned down, we have no boards or shutters so we are worried about what could happen," he said.

"No customers will come later anyway, they are frightened. The rioters will smash things and take things and the police won't stop them."

Some office workers were also sent home early as a precautionary measure, amid fears of possible further violence.

'Final straw'

Richard Dodd from the BRC warned that some businesses may never open their doors again.

"It is clear that the cost of the damage is going to run into the tens of millions of pounds at least in terms of property damage, goods stolen and loss of business.

"Undoubtedly there will be retailers for whom this will be the final horrendous straw and it won't be viable for them to reopen," he said.

Businesses affected included:

  • About 157 Tesco stores in London, Liverpool and Bristol were closed overnight or shortened their opening hours as a precautionary measure, while 26 stores "suffered varying degrees of damage"
  • Sainsbury's said 16 stores had experienced "serious incidents" and three convenience stores remained closed
  • Argos said some stores would be closing early after 18 of its branches had suffered various degrees of damage
  • JD Sports and Carphone Warehouse both said a number of stores were looted or damaged
  • The chief executive of Greggs, Ken McMeikan, told the BBC that the company's Peckham branch, which had been set alight, looked like it was "pretty much a write-off". A branch in Ealing was also looted
  • Debenhams said that it was working with the police and that its Clapham Junction store remained closed after it was looted on Monday night
  • Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre and several shops on the High Street all closed early on Tuesday
  • Sony said that UK deliveries of CDs and DVDs could be affected after a fire hit its warehouse in Enfield
  • All the major banks said that some branches were closed all day, while others closed early, on police advice

Meanwhile, London & Partners, the official promotional agency for the capital, were hopeful that London's tourism would not take too much of a knock.

"It is currently too early to anticipate the effect on tourism but we are monitoring the situation and we will work with the industry to respond to specific issues as they arise," a spokesman said.

"Past experience tells us that London recovers very quickly from such events and we will focus on recovery activity as soon as it is viable to do so."

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