Elizabeth Fournier
SCORES of shops across London were closed for business yesterday as the threat of rioting and looting remained high, and home secretary Theresa May met with industry leaders in an attempt to reassure them that extra efforts were being made to protect retailers.

May met with business chiefs yesterday afternoon – including the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) – to answer their concerns after a third night of looting and vandalism across the capital.

Last night, grocer Sainsbury’s said it had closed most of its stores within the M25 by 6pm “as a result of police advice”. Sixteen of the company’s shops experienced serious incidents during the disturbances on Monday night and several remained closed yesterday.

Tesco also confirmed a number of stores had been affected, and the ASC said that 93 of its members had been hit, either in direct attacks or because wholesalers could not get deliveries through.

Staff at Sony were still unable yesterday to enter the company’s CD and DVD distribution centre in Enfield that was destroyed in an arson attack overnight on Monday.

Even businesses in the City – which has been untouched by the riots so far – were taking precautionary measures last night, as several stores in the One New Change centre told City A.M. they were closing early and sending staff home.

The City of London said there was no need at present to close anything early.

“But we’re taking proper measures,” said a spokesman. Asked why the City had so far been unscathed by the riots, he said: “We’ve got our own police force and the area inside the City is the most CCTV’d environment in the world.”

A BRC spokesman said the emergency meeting with the home secretary had addressed all the points it raised, with reassurance that extra policing was in place and those arrested would be detained rather than bailed.

But the spokesman added: “What matters is action to ensure that actually happens, and we get the right results”.

Meanwhile, economists painted a downbeat picture of the effect that the riots could have on the struggling UK economy.

“The downside of the riots is that people may be deterred from coming to London, so they could be bad for retail sales,” IHS Global Insight’s chief economist Howard Archer told City A.M.