Businesses Pick Up the Pieces After Nights of Looting
Small and medium-sized businesses across England have been picking up the pieces after nights of rioting and looting in major cities that, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), could cost business an estimated £100 million, writes Simon Wicks.
In the worst case, the family-owned House of Reeves furniture store in Croydon was set alight and left a burnt-out shell. But retailers across London and in areas of Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and elsewhere had windows smashed, interiors wrecked and stock looted.
Some, already struggling with a difficult economy, may never open again. Yet many business-owners have shown a defiant and determined attitude in the face of crisis.
“I was here at 7am on Wednesday morning and our job was to clean up,”
said Mark Taylor, managing director of musical equipment retailer Dawsons Music Shop in Manchester, city centre.
“The important thing is that we were open as normal, one way or another.”
Dawsons shopfront windows were pushed in and looters smashed panels and cabinets to get at high-tech electronic equipment and portable keyboards. The business, founded in 1899, was quickly restocked from its warehouse and other stores and even received offers of help from competitors.
Taylor, who heard the news that his shop was being raided while celebrating his wedding anniversary paid tribute to the “Dunkirk spirit” of staff and volunteers in the city’s clean-up operation. “What’s been fantastic has been the people walking through Manchester with brooms, looking for places where they can come and help people,” he said.
It was a similar story for Angelo Ambrosio, joint owner of the family-owned Santa Maria Pizzeria in Ealing after looters broke into the restaurant on Monday night.
“We had the front window smashed, the fridges smashed, the till, bottles of wine and beer,”
said Ambrosio, who set up the business 18 months ago.
“The first thing we did was call the glass company to replace the windows and we came here to clean up the place. We were ready to open as usual on Tuesday.”
However, Ambrosio said they had lost a lot of business through fear of a repeat of Monday night’s trouble.
“On Tuesday, for our own safety, we closed early and bolted the doors. We lost yesterday as a business and today [Wednesday]. We don’t know if people are still scared. They’re going home early in the evening.”
Even businesses not directly attacked are counting the losses caused by fear of further trouble. Mike Diggins, owner of Brent Autos in Harlesden, west London, said he was paying the price for a minor flare-up in Harlesden high street on Monday night that was quickly dealt with by police.
“I think a lot of people were suffering anyway and this has made it worse. The phone has just stopped ringing since this started. Normally you get enquiries, but there’s not been any today.”
Forum of Private Business spokesman Phil McCabe said it was small businesses that were hit hardest by the outbreaks of disorder.
“It’s much more difficult for them to get back trading. People stay in, especially for retail.”
McCabe advised businesses to check their insurance policy, whether their premises had been physically damaged or not. In some cases, firms may be able to make a claim for lost business as a result of civil disturbance.
- Find out how to make insurance claims following the riots on the Association of British Insurers website