The extent of damage to the retail industry from London riots assessed by BRC

Rioters look Carphone Warehouse in London - Met Police image
Rioters look Carphone Warehouse in London - Met Police image

The British Retail Consortium has issued a snapshot survey of its members to ascertain the extent of damage to its stores following rioting and looting across the UK.

Sixteen respondents reported 899 stores affected by the riots including:

  • 102 affected by theft
  • 187 damaged
  • 7 affected by arson
  • 61 affected by burglary

11,088 staff were affected and a total of 7,599 trading hours were lost.

The retail industry employs 11 per cent of the UK workforce which equates to 2.9 million people working in 286,680 shops.

The respondents were responsible for stores which represented 27 per cent of the UK retail sector by total retail sales. The BRC said that the damage to the sector as a whole will therefore be considerably higher.

The research, carried out by the BRC, has been submitted to relevant police forces as part of the victim impact assessments which can be used in the sentencing phase of any trials.

Anecdotal information was also gathered from respondents including:

    • “Some staff were extremely frightened by events; a few have indicated that they will be considering their careers in retail.”
    • “There was fear of coming to work and not being able to get to work. Two colleagues were mugged and assaulted on their way home. Colleagues were in store when looters hit.”
    • “Some staff were caught still in one of the stores when it was broken into and had to escape through the rear – an extremely frightening experience.”
BRC director of business Tom Ironside: retail staff are the forgotten victims of the riots
BRC director of business Tom Ironside: retail staff are the forgotten victims of the riots
    According to BRC director of business Tom Ironside, retail staff are the forgotten victims of the riots. “The scenes of violence and looting which broke out two weeks ago were frightening even for the majority of us who were watching them on television or reading about them in the papers. To have been in a shop as it was attacked or set on fire must have been terrifying.

“Strong punishments are appropriate for the perpetrators of this violence to reassure the three million people who work in the retail sector that their safety is taken seriously. It’s sad to hear of retail staff reconsidering their career choice because they feel vulnerable at work.

“The police have done a great job of finding those responsible for the rioting and have been a reassuring presence on our streets. As damaged buildings are repaired and streets return to normal, shop owners and their staff also need their confidence rebuilt. A strong message must go out that the retail sector, and those who work in it, will be protected.”

Security advice

Meanwhile, the union Usdaw has issued security guidance to its members and has urged retailers to review their security urgently, including:

  • Ensure systems are in place to communicate with staff at the earliest opportunity.
  • Ensure that alarms, CCTV, protective barriers and panic buttons are in good working order and that staff are aware of how to use them.
  • Provide extra security where appropriate.
  • Implement procedures to prevent cash from building up in tills and ensure that banking or cashing up procedures are carried out by specialist security staff only.
  • Review shift patterns to ensure adequate staffing levels – in particular, ensuring that staff are not left vulnerable by working on their own.
  • Ensure that rigorous incident reporting measures are in place and followed at all times.
  • Check fire safety procedures are operational.

In the event of rioting or the threat of trouble, employers should seriously consider closing their premises in order to protect staff and customers.

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