Cost of riots may top £100m in damage and lost business

 

The economic cost of the riots is likely to be significant, at a fragile time in Britain's recovery from recession. Small retailers will be the worst hit, but larger firms will also feel the pain as will the country's tourist industry.

The Association of British Insurers said the industry's liability would run to "well over" £100m. Home and commercial insurance policies should cover fire and looting, and accommodation for those forced out, but some households and small businesses are likely to face big uninsured losses.

Premises torched included the 144-year-old House of Reeves furniture store in Croydon, and shops across London closing their doors early included Waterstone's and WH Smith. The British Retail Consortium said: "It is clear that the cost of the damage is going to run into tens of millions of pounds at least, in property damage, goods stolen and loss of business."

The Federation of Small Businesses said that for some members, the events of the past few nights would result in permanent shuttering. The Association of Convenience Stores said it knew of 93 shops affected by the violence, either directly or because newspaper delivery vans were unable to access them.

Jamie Oliver's restaurant in Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre was hit by rioters. The chef tweeted: "So sad to see what's happening in UK with these riots! All gone mad. time to get our country back. Now we need to come down hard on these idiots."

The tourist industry is likely to suffer as images of burning buildings and rioting gangs are beamed around the world. Disruption to public transport in the London suburbs and early office closures will also hit economic activity.

If shoppers and pubgoers prove discouraged by the scenes of mayhem, consumer spending may be depressed at a time when the retail sector can ill afford it. Against those negatives, glaziers, builders and security firms will probably see an uptick in their order books.

Economists also warned that overseas investors could interpret the riots, wrongly, as a symbol of political resistance to public spending cuts. Malcolm Barr of JP Morgan, said: "We have had a number of questions from clients, particularly those based outside of the UK, about the rioting in London and elsewhere overnight."

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