Retailers have been urged to put people ahead of property and not risk unnecessary confrontation after London plunged into a third night of riots.

Store owners in the capital, as well as Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool, saw shop fronts smashed and goods looted in what Scotland Yard called “the worst night in current memory” for civil unrest.

Major retailers including Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Tesco were among those affected, although initial reports that a Sainsbury’s depot in Enfield had been torched later proved wide of the mark.

"A number of our stores were closed earlier than usual yesterday as a precaution, in some cases on the advice of police," said a Sainsbury's spokesman.

"Sixteen of our stores experienced serious incidents during the disturbances last night. All of these stores have now reopened, except three of our convenience stores, which remain closed and will reopen as soon as possible.

"All our other stores are open for business as usual. As far as we are aware, no customers or store colleagues have been injured, and their safety remains our priority.

"We are assessing the situation on an hour by hour basis as the safety of our customers and store colleagues is paramount. We will continue to take advice from police and other authorities throughout the day."

According to figures from the Association of Convenience Stores, 93 independent stores have been affected  "either directly, or in that newspaper wholesalers cannot get deliveries to them".

Croydon, where the Lidl was set ablaze, Clapham Junction, Hackney and Peckham suffered some of the worst damage in the latest night of carnage, while a group of Turkish shopkeepers in Dalston banded together to defend their property.

But ACS chief executive James Lowman said retailers’ personal safety and that of their staff should be their top concern.

"The images of local community stores being looted and destroyed by violent criminals are sickening,” he said.

“Most urban areas in London and elsewhere are safe and will remain so, but retailers need to keep in contact with each other and local people to get the earliest warning of any impending problems.

“People are more important than property. Retailers’ first concern must be to protect themselves and their staff.”

Lowman said the association was working with the authorities to help tackle the crisis and urged retailers with information that could assist the police to contact the ACS.

Meanwhile, Aldi yesterday confirmed that nobody was hurt when its Tottenham store was set ablaze on Saturday. The discounter yesterday said it was working with the emergency services to determine the extent of the damage.

Read more
Retailers stunned at London rioting (8 August 2011)
Editor's Comment: Riots aren't surprising. But riots about a Tesco Express in Stokes Croft? (30 April 2011)