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Clapham riot proves much to fear for retailers


It may only be a short distance between the common and junction areas of Clapham but this morning they seemed a world apart.

While traders in coffee shops and clothes stores in the former proceeded with business as usual, shops in the latter stood silent and desolate in a landscape of broken glass and shocked observers.

Clapham, along with Hackney and Croydon, was one of the worst affected areas last night as the London riots rolled on for a third night running.

TV images of the House of Reeves furniture store burning to the ground in Croydon shocked the nation, as viewers struggled to understand why anyone would want to destroy an independently run retailer which has been owned by the same family since 1867.

Many of the stores attacked in Clapham were independent businesses too, with electricals stores such as DJ Stop and Woods Radios being ransacked, whilst fancy dress shop The Party Superstore situated on the main high street was still being attended by fire crews today after an arson attack.

Multiples and multi-nationals will be counting the costs of lost stock and property damage in their next financial results, but many of these local stores may never be able to recover from the damage inflicted by these criminals.

Another serious threat to retailers, which may be longer lasting than the damage to property, is a fall in already weak national consumer confidence.

The debris of a smash and grab attempt at a Blacks store in Clapham
The debris of a smash and grab attempt at a Blacks store in Clapham

With retail spending rising again in July, according to the British Retail Consortium today, after a difficult few months, the last thing the fragile industry needs is another reason for shoppers to stay in their homes.

Violent episodes like those seen in London and Birmingham yesterday however risk turning urban areas into no-go zones, at least in the short term.

A police officer who was involved in the skirmishes in Clapham shockingly claimed that customers still inside the local Debenhams store were being physically attacked by looters as they rampaged inside.

Though he and other officers tried to help he admitted: “There were just not enough of us to protect everybody.”

Police have cordoned off much of the centre of the south London suburb
Police have cordoned off much of the centre of the south London suburb

The main high street in Clapham along with St John’s Road are likely to stay cordoned off for the rest of the day as the clean-up operation continues.

Retailers across the capital, and in other major cities perhaps, will now be considering when to open until tonight and will be desperate for tip offs on any areas likely to be attacked.

But as another police officer told onlookers by the police barriers on St John’s Road, he is confident that more riots will occur but he has no idea where.

Published on Tuesday 09 August by Editorial Assistant

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