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Destruction from rioting costs mobile retailers millions

Mobile News
August 18, 2011

At least 60 stores fall victim to riots, with some stockrooms “gutted” by looters systematically targeting mobile shops

Rioting across the UK is reckoned to have cost mobile phone retailers millions of pounds as stores were left trashed and cleared of stock.

Looters have been systematically targeting mobile phone retailers during the violence that erupted on August 6. Handsets and computers were taken from displays and from stockrooms, while weekend takings have also reportedly been stolen from some stores.

The full impact and total cost of damages and stock lost is currently unknown, as many stores remained cordoned off by police as Mobile News went to press. At least 60 retail stores were hit in total.

Reports range from stores sustaining minimal damages and thefts, to some being completely cleaned out of stock.

The weekend of chaos saw T-Mobile, Carphone Warehouse, Orange, T-Mobile and O2 stores in Brixton, Tottenham Hale and Wood Green looted, causing extensive damage to fixtures and fittings. Repair costs on a Carphone Warehouse store in Tottenham Hale are estimated at more than £100,000.

The violence spilled over to other parts of London, Manchester, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Bristol, Leicester and Liverpool over the following three days.

Everything Everywhere confirmed 26 of its T-Mobile and Orange stores were hit. O2 has confirmed nine stores, while Three said four of its stores weren forced to close due to damage sustained but would not provide further details.

Vodafone refused to confirm numbers, but there are understood to be at least eight stores affected.

Carphone Warehouse and Phones 4U also refused to comment on the number of affected stores, but at least seven Carphone Warehouse stores and six Phones 4U stores are known to have been attacked.

Fonehouse also confirmed three of its retail stores, based in Walworth Road, Greenwich (both South London) and Norbury (Croydon) were attacked on August 8. All stores were trashed, with all handsets stolen, causing more than £70,000 in damages.

The bill for fixing one recently refitted store runs to £30,000. Fonehouse managing director Clive Bayley said: “This is a big blow. We’re continuously tracking tip-offs from people on Twitter about which of our stores might get hit next.”

An Everything Everywhere spokesperson said: “We can confirm that several of our stores were affected, causing varying levels of property damage and some loss of stock, but most importantly we are thankful that none of our team were hurt.

“We are putting additional security and safeguard measures into place, in case there is further escalation of the riots, with our top priority being the protection of our staff.”

Mobile News visited some of the affected areas in London in the immediate aftermath. Staff returned to find demolished stores, deep in broken glass and with ransacked and empty shelves.

Live demonstration handsets, accessories, handsets and tablets were taken, and stockrooms had been, in some cases, “gutted”.

Some of the worst looting took place at Tottenham Hale Retail Park. Carphone Warehouse O2 and Orange stores were “stripped bare” by between 200 and 300 youths in the early hours of Sunday morning, according to staff and witnesses. More than 350 people were arrested during the weekend’s events.

Staff working within the retail park claimed early estimates on the total value of stock stolen across all electrical stores, which also included Currys, PC World, Comet and Staples, would touch £6 million.

An O2 staffer from the Tottenham branch told Mobile News looters smashed through three layers of glass using a metal pole (pictured, page 9) to gain access, before leaving with around £50,000 of stock. The same staffer claimed Orange, just a few doors down, lost stock worth about £35,000.

A member of staff from the Orange store, which was raided immediately after the O2 store, said CCTV footage appeared to show looters knew exactly where the stockroom was located.

An Orange staffer said: “They went straight to the stockroom. They took everything, even the PCs. Anything they found. We were lucky enough that they only smashed one of the doors.

“They weren’t protesting, they were just looting. If they were vandalising, they would have smashed up Subway and other stores.”

A new Carphone Warehouse store in Tottenham was also attacked. Workmen were busy boarding up the large store frontage destroyed the night before. Damages were estimated to be worth £100,000.

One of the workmen Mobile News spoke with, in the wake of the raid, said the inside of the shop was “all gone”.

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