For the last 4 days there has been rioting in the streets of England. It started in London with the biggest problems in Clapham, Croyden and Tottenham and then spread to other cities, including Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. There have been smaller outbreaks of violence and vandalism in other towns and London suburbs.
The reasons for the riots are still not fully understood but first analysis suggests it is a combination of social depirvation, unemployment, spiralling costs of living and a general dissatifcation with the way the country is being run. The reports are of children and unemployed ethnic minorities rioting, but the truth is that people from all walks of life are being caught in the act. Even a primary school worker has been seen in court for looting from an electrical store.
The greatest concern for retail now is not the immediate clean up that is required, but the longer term survival. Some shops have had all of their valuable stock stolen, many are not insured against these actions and others have had thie business burned to the ground with no hope of starting again. However, the greatest concern is that these riots and contiunued unrest will discourage more shoppers from visiting the high streets.
The retail industry is under a huge amount of strain at the moment. We have seen many closures of major hogh street brands such as Habitat, Thorntons and Mothercare. Now there is a new crisis, a general fear of visiting the high street.
It could be weeks before people feel safe returning to high streets to shop, and shopkeepers are going to remain wary of firther rioting and looting. What happened once can happen again. The police have now sent much larger forces to the streets but this is not sustainable in the long term. Many police units from around the country have been brought in to bolster the London Met Police ranks, but in time they will have to return to their other duties.
Many businesses do feel that the riots have all but destroyed them already. There are talks of that some towns will become ghost towns as retailers decide not to operate in them. Once bustling retail high streets will become deserted roads in the centre of residential estates.
Dixon’s seems to have been the hardest hit shop with 23 stores vandalised and looted across the country. Dixons has 49 stores nationwide, so almost half of all of their stores are now out of business and the losses in looted stock will be astronomical with mostly high tech equipment being stolen.
Sony have essentially stopped importing CD’s and DVD’s after the Enfield warehouse was burnt to the ground.
Carphone Warehouse have also suffered losses with many shops looted of all stock. Charles Dunstone told Sky News that retail business leaders were feeling totally helpless to do anything and that many companies simply could not afford to take such as massive blow.
One independent electrical retailer in Hackney was cleared our. Harris Electricals, a family owned business run by Debbie Harris, the 4th generation of the Harris family running the store. She said that all televisions, home entertainment systems and 3D glasses have been stolen, along with many other goods. They have reopened partially, but sales are down 70% and parts of the shop are closed off awaiting forensic examination.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) fears that many businesses will not survive this wave of looting and riots. It is a time when many shops are counting on tourists to bolster sales, but tourists are being warned that London is now a danger zone. A good Christmas is the only hope now for many shops.