Small businesses “destroyed” by London riots

Some firms “will not be able to re-establish themselves,” warns BRC

The riots on the streets of London over the last three days may permanently destroy many small businesses.

That is the assessment of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which has condemned the attacks on retailers, high streets and communities.

Small retailers

While much of the looting, arson and other criminality has been focused on large retailers, many independent stores and restaurants were also affected. Lord Harris of Peckham, owner of the Carpetright chain, whose Tottenham outlet was burned down during Saturday’s riots, highlighted the fragility of smaller firms:

“Big companies can withstand it,” the Guardian quoted him saying. “It’s the little entrepreneurs – people who have greengrocers and clothes shops – I really do feel sorry for. Who is going to shop there now?”

Condemning the riots, the Forum of Private Businesses’ senior policy adviser Phil McCabe said:

“While these people might try to rationalise their activities by believing they are targeting large companies, it is in fact small firms – many of which are already struggling – that suffer most from having their premises looted and destroyed.”

The full extent of the damage is as yet unknown, however the owners of a 144-year-old family-run furniture retailer, which has become the symbol of the destruction after its substantial Croydon store went up in flames last night, highlighted the implications for small business employees as well as owners in the Daily Mail, saying their firm has “15 or 20 staff and families that were supported”.

Long-term effects

Furthermore, beyond the initial damage, there are concerns about the long-term effects of the criminal activity. Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said:

“At a time when some of London’s most deprived areas are looking forward to a substantial spending boost from visitors to next year’s Olympics, this sends an appalling message to would-be tourists around the world.”

The Metropolitan Police are due to issue advice to London businesses about how to deal with the damage and threats of further rioting, but in a statement from the Association of British Insurers it was estimated that the incidents will cost insurance companies “tens of millions” of pounds.


John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“This disruption is causing untold damage to individual businesses, our extremely fragile economy and our image, less than a year ahead of the Olympic Games. Our cities simply cannot afford for this to continue and it is impossible to estimate how much this is going to cost the business community.”

Calling upon the government for support he added:

“Until things are brought under control, and businesses are able to claim insurance and open their doors in safety, HMRC must extend leniency to affected businesses – especially to those that have been cleaned out by thieves, or burnt and lost their records. We recommend businesses take police guidance to protect themselves and we call on the Home Office to ensure the right resources are deployed to protect businesses and citizens from another night’s damage.”


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