August 10th, 2011
06:59 PM GMT
London, (CNN) – Liz Pilgrim opened her boutique babywear store, babye, in Ealing seven years ago. She decided to build up her own business after she had her first child, and saw a niche in high quality maternity products.
She has since expanded the business, opening a second retail outlet and online store. But last Monday babye was targeted as part of the violence which swept London and through the UK.
The riots are the worst violence seen in the UK for decades, and have left behind devastated retailers and a clean up bill likely to run into the tens of millions of pounds.
The rioters who targeted babye tried to smash through the shatter-proof windows and, when that failed, kicked down the door. They stole babywear, trashed furniture, used the hat stand as a torch and poured alcohol over the CCTV camera. They left behind a trail of blood, empty crisp packages, beer bottles and thousands and thousands of pounds in damage.
Pilgrim is still counting the total cost, which will include stolen stock – including some irreplaceable designer outfits – damage and lost earnings. The shop has been boarded up since Tuesday, with any clean up delayed as police gather forensic evidence on the crime.
Pilgrim says she can’t understand why the rioters ransacked her store, calling the attacks “ just wilful damage.” She plans to reopen the store as soon as possible, hopefully within a week, but says the episode has been “devastating really, I just feel violated.”
While independent operators like Pilgrim did get hit, perpetrators in large part targeted sports and electronic retailers in retail parks. Rioters were seen pushing shopping trolleys full of merchandise away from large retail outlets, and throwing goods into car boots parked outside.
JD Sports, which sells fashion trainers and fitness gear, was particularly hard hit, with 30 of its 350 U.K. and Ireland stores ransacked. It is facing a bill of over a million pounds, although the final cost is yet to be established, a spokesman says.
Estimates on the total cost remain fluid although figures from Kelkoo, produced by the Centre for Retail Research, have tagged it at £80 million in lost sales due to early closures and consumers avoiding the city. It estimates the looted stock and repairs costs at £61 million so far, with the bill likely to escalate should the riots continue through the week.
The Association of British Insurers has tagged the cost at well over £100 million, although costs are still being up totted up in part due to difficulties assessing fire damaged buildings, according to spokeswoman Katherine Riviere.
A more intangible cost will be to the UK economy, with fears the images of looting and violence circling the world will drive tourists away.
Kelkoo’s has crunched numbers showing that if 1% of tourists change their plans due to the riots, the UK’s tourism industry could take a £520 million hit in the next 12 months.
But Mark Di-Toro, VisitBritain spokesperson, says it is still too early to anticipate the effect on inbound tourism. On average, 330,000 overseas visitors are in London on any given day, according to VisitBritain statistics. Of those, around 150,000 will be on holiday.
Di-Toro says VisitBritain was not aware of any attractions which have been impacted by the riots. And, he adds, “Britain has a strong and positive image overseas and we hope these incidents will be short-lived and that tourism will show its customary resilience.”
Perhaps the most damaging medium term impact could be the demise of retailers which are unable to recover from the riots, the costs of which will reverberate through the local communities.
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