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Riots leave retailers with £100m bill

Businesses are picking up the pieces after fashion stores across the country were damaged and looted by worst rioting in living memory.

Retailers across England have been left counting the cost of this week’s rioting and looting, with the total cost expected to top more than £100m.

The disturbances, which started in Tottenham, north London, spread across the capital, with outbreaks of rioting in Enfield, Wimbledon, Hackney, Croydon, Clapham Junction, Ealing and Kensington. At the time of going to press, other affected cities included Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.

According to the Local Data Company, 48,404 businesses were affected nationally. Of these, stores owned by JD Sports, Foot Locker, Debenhams, Miss Selfridge, TK Maxx and Peacocks were among those attacked, plus numerous indies.

“We’ve been inundated and our site traffic has increased 20-fold in the past few days,” said Nigel Rothband, chief executive of the Retail Trust charity. “It’s not just the financial cost, it’s the human cost. These businesses are some people’s lives.”

Retailer JD Sports Fashion in particular seems to have been targeted, with 15 of its JD stores affected. Its chief executive Peter Cowgill estimated the repair bill would run into the millions. “It’s damage, lost stock and lost profits, plus the impact on long-term trade.”

Independent retailers were also damaged. Ash Pabari, owner of womenswear retailer Ash in St John’s Road, Clapham Junction, first saw his store being attacked on YouTube. Looters smashed windows to steal footwear, jewellery and clothing.

“I’ve owned this shop for 21 years and we’re the only indie left in this street,” he said. Pabari added that opening for business was near-impossible as looters took all that was left of his summer stock.

Even where retailers weren’t directly hit, they pointed to a drop-off in trade as a result of anxiety among consumers. Colin Temple, managing director of footwear chain Schuh, said: “Trading in some areas has been very quiet, as people have been a bit reticent to go out shopping.

“The shine has definitely come off trade in the last couple of days though and who knows how long that will last.”

Outdoor retailer Blacks in Clapham Junction was at the centre of rioting. “We had two members of staff on site in the office upstairs, so it was very frightening,” said Blacks Leisure regional director Caroline Langridge. “They broke the glass and came in. More than 40% of our stock is gone, particularly high-value clothing by performance brands The North Face and Berghaus. They were stealing to order. It was incredible.”

Langridge also expressed disappointment at the lack of police presence in the Clapham area. “There was no one there for at least two hours. Not a sniff. Staff made two calls to police but were trapped upstairs from 9 pm until about 11.30pm.”

The BRC demanded assurances that there would be a “resolute pursuit of offenders with effective prosecutions, in contrast to the West End protests earlier this year.” This touched on public speculation this week that the relatively tepid response to the London West End riots in May might have encouraged the most recent wave.

Nick Starling, a director at the Association of British Insurers, predicted the total cost of rioting would be more than £100m. Paul Lawrence, a partner at claims recovery specialist Harris Balcombe, put the average cost of repairs, including stock and refit, at between £20,000 and £100,000 for small independents, and up to a million pounds for an average chain store, dependent on the size “assuming there is no structural damage.” He estimated that larger department stores would need over £1m.

Maureen Hinton, lead analyst at retail consultancy Verdict Research, said the riots would impact investment long term, particularly in areas that had recently been regenerated. Although she added that established city centres, such as Manchester, would most likely recover quickly.

Tom Lloyd, manager of menswear indie A1 in Chalk Farm Road in Camden, another riot hotspot on Tuesday, said: “When I saw it all start to head in this direction I had a feeling we would be a target.”

Essentials

28

Town centres in the UK impacted by the riots

48,404

Number of businesses affected, which equates to 10.2% of all premises

65%

Proportion of affected businesses which are small independents £500,000 Estimated starting cost of refitting and restocking an average-sized chain store

*Statistics from Local Data Company, and Harris Balcombe, a claims recovery specialist insurance company

 

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