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How the riots hit retail

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As retailers across the UK start to deal with the damage caused by this week’s riots, online retailers and advertisers have promised to play their part in making sure that looters do not profit.

eBay has said it will work with the authorities to make sure that no items stolen during the looting are sold through its marketplace site.

In a statement it said: “Our thoughts are with the businesses and communities affected by recent events in London and around the UK. eBay will cooperate fully with the investigating authorities to identify and remove any listings which are linked to criminal activity.”

It is also reported that local listings site Gumtree has also said it will work with police to the same end.

The riots, which have hit cities including London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol, are thought to have cost retailers millions, and are a real blow to high street traders.

Early figures put together for online price comparison site Kelkoo by the Centre for Retail Research estimate traders will be faced with a £141m bill, or £35.2m for each day of the riot, in both lost sales due to closures and to the clean-up bill. If disturbances continued until midnight on Saturday that total would climb to £392m.

Chris Simpson, chief marketing officer, Kelkoo, said: “Despite the chaos showing signs of abating, UK retailers are sadly going to feel the fallout of this week’s riots for several months to come. Much of the cost will be picked up by insurers but we cannot overlook the fact that on top of the damage caused, retailers, restaurants, pubs and other service providers have been forced to shut their doors to business in order to protect their staff, customers and premises. This comes at a time when retailers are already struggling to stay afloat with sales up by just 0.6% on July 2010. Despite a small move in the right direction, I expect this could be a very different picture in the coming months as consumers’ confidence has taken a turn for the worst.

The British Retail Consortium says the Government’s commitment to suspend business rates for stores affected by the riots and to offer compensation to those whose insurance will not cover the costs is a welcome short-term measure. But it says a long-term plan to revitalise urban shopping areas is needed, while in the medium-term those found guilty of vandalism and theft of retail premises during the riots must be “properly punished”.

BRC Director General Stephen Robertson said: “The retail sector has been battling difficult trading conditions for much of this year and sadly for some shops these attacks will be the final straw. Even where shops do manage to stay in business it is likely not all jobs will survive. Support for retailers will translate directly into support for employees, and preserve vital local services.

“Our high streets urgently need action which will revitalise them in the long-term. When the rubble has been cleared away and stores have reopened, there will be bigger, underlying problems still to address. We look forward to working with the Government to establish an action plan which will give our communities the vibrant, well-kept and successful high streets they deserve.”

And, said Kelkoo’s Simpson: “It’s not just the immediate damage that will impact our economy. As scenes of violence span the globe making headline news across the world, this could have a serious impact on UK tourism over the next 12 months. This is particularly problematic with the forthcoming Olympics, an event which should generate a considerable amount of revenue for the UK. Our research suggests that if just 1% of tourists choose an alternative destination to the UK, we stand to lose £520 million in lost revenue over the next 12 months. This is marginally less than the amount of income generated by the royal wedding back in April.”

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