For most of us, the riots were little more than a depressing news story. But six months on, several indie retailers are still feeling the pain. So what support have they received and how is the future looking?

The shattered glass may have been swept away, the shelves replenished and the mangled tills replaced with new ones, but don’t think for a moment that the damage caused to Dhaval Patel’s business during the August riots has been fully repaired.

“It’s still affecting us day-to-day,” he reflects sombrely from behind the counter of his West Croydon CTN. “Business is slow and the money we lost through stolen stock and the cost of replacing the stuff that was damaged means things are very tight.”

A little over six months ago a group of 40 to 50 looters prised open the shutters of the Early To Late store in London Road and rampaged through the premises, lining their pockets with cigarettes and alcohol and laying waste to anything that stood in their path. Patel estimates the cost of repairing the damage and replacing lost stock at £10,000, a bill he has had to pay as his insurers continue to drag their feet.

Along the road, past boarded-up windows, Khalid Butt cuts a similarly dejected figure as he paces around his Savemore Spicy Foods store. Although Savemore wasn’t directly targeted by rioters, the impact the criminality has had on the street has Butt fearing for the future of his business. Sales are down 50% and normally loyal customers are choosing to do their weekly shop in less notorious districts of Croydon.

For most of us, the summer riots were little more than an aberration a drama played out on rolling news channels. For the traders of London Road and their equivalents across the UK, however, the week of lawlessness has left an indelible blot on their lives.

In Manchester, Ismal Patel’s City Centre Newsagents in Pendleton Way, Salford remains shut with little imminent prospect of reopening. Patel’s store was looted and torched leaving damage totalling between £80,000 and £90,000. And some looters even attempted to cash in winnings from stolen scratchcards at his other CTN.

With his insurance payout likely to be no more than £25,000, Patel explored the option of being compensated through the Riot Damages Act, which allows businesses to seek compensation even if they aren’t covered by insurance. Like many others, however, Patel has yet to hear back from his local police authority. Patel is currently “50/50” over whether he wants to continue trading, but with eight children to support he may have no other option. Patel is angry at the police and the government, who he feels should have provided greater support. Elsewhere, however, there are heartening tales of the help offered by outsiders.

Wholesaler Bestway offered credit to a number of its customers, allowing them to replenish stock immediately, while a ‘Curry on Laughing’ night held by Palmer & Harvey raised £13,000. Trade bodies and charities such as the ACS, NFRN and Retail Trust, meanwhile, have been on hand with help for retailers.

Communities and councils have also rallied in support of local businesses. The Ealing Green Local run by Ravi and Amrit Khurmy was burnt to the ground in the riots and with the couple set to receive no payout from their insurance company their prospects looked bleak. Now, Ealing Council has offered them a temporary lease on a nearby store and has also helped them recoup £8,000 from the High Street Fund set up by the government to support affected small businesses.

In Hackney, Siva Kandiah has his customers to thank for the rapid revival of his business after his Clarence Convenience Store was wrecked by rioters. Local people set up a ‘Save Siva’s Shop Fund’ to get him trading again, raising in excess of £10,000. Within days, Kandiah’s store had reopened, and although sales are still below pre-riot levels, he is thankful for the help of local people. “Bad things happen and you have to get on with it,” he says. “The local people have been great.”

Kandiah also received a £2,000 interest-free loan from the NFRN and a £500 award from the Federation’s Ratcliffe Benevolent Fund. Meanwhile, the Federation’s insurance arm, NFRN Mutual, has been compensating customers affected by the riots, handing out interim payments to help those worst affected.”When money’s tight, people look to cut costs and that can end up being costly in the long run,” says Cathy Atkinson, head of sales and marketing at NFRN Mutual. Her assessment rings true for many retailers, such as Kandiah and Ismal Patel, who admit they were underinsured and as a result have had difficulties claiming back anywhere near the value of the damage caused.

For those trading again, the best means of recovery is through trade itself. In Birmingham, the council commissioned brand activation agency Chosen to create a campaign to revitalise independent retail. The result was the Backing Birmingham campaign, central to which was a B-Card initiative that distributed more than two million money-saving cards to local residents. More than 1,000 retailers have joined the campaign with some reporting double-digit sales growth. “We were determined to do something that had some practical value,” says Chosen chairman Jon Derry.

It may be overstating the point to suggest that the riots could become a catalyst for a renaissance in the sector, but the example of the B-Card shows that good can emerge from dire circumstances. That said, as memories of the riots fade, so too does support. Council funding for Backing Birmingham has ended and it’s up to retailers to take the B-Card scheme forward.

A great deal of determination and self-help will be required if businesses still damaged by the riots are to survive. But at a time when the independent retail sector is already under intense competitive pressure, it’s equally vital that Ismal Patel, Khalid Butt and others like them are not left to fight their battles alone.