Store owners have been left shell-shocked by the recent rioting across England but are vowing to continue to serve their communities. 

Paul Stone’s three Spar stores were looted as violence spread to Manchester on Tuesday night. One of the stores, based in the heart of the city, was completely ransacked with all alcohol and tobacco stock looted from the shelves. “It’s been the worst night of my business life,” he said. “Even though we had a security guard at each of the stores, they still got looted. I was up until 4am trying to clean up.”

He said he would be re-opening despite the damage done to his store. “There’s lots of cleaning up to be done but as soon as possible we’ll open again,” he said. “We have to remain open for the community.”

In Birmingham, Spar Paradise Forum was hit for the second consecutive night on Tuesday. On Monday night a gang of about 25 stole stock and the retailer's laptop which was behind the counter. Last night the cigarette gantry was ripped out.

James Brundle, who runs Spar in Walthamstow in East London, said he had put extensive preparations in place to prevent his store being damaged. “We kept the shop open for the community and had a member of staff patrol the street who would warn us if there was any trouble coming.”

Retailers are also pitching in to help with the recovery operation. Andrew Thornton of Budgens in Crouch End is appealing for bedding, clothes, toys and unused toiletries to be left outside his store to be donated to help those left homeless by the riots. He wrote on Twitter yesterday: “First van load of donations about to head up to Tottenham. Thank you Crouch End.” Retailers who are interested in helping clear up the damage can get involved on @riotcleanup on Twitter.

Shiva Kadih of Clarence Convenience Store in Hackney was forced to stand by as his store was looted. He said rioters had attempted to set fire to the store but had been stopped by passers-by. 

The owners of a store in Ealing Green were not so lucky as their store was burnt to the ground by looters on Monday night. Nobody was injured in the incident.

A spokeswoman for Spar said it had been in contact with all of the retailers in the affected areas and that most had escaped unscathed. She added that most of them would be closing early until the riots have abated.

Amit Patel of Belvedere News Food & Wine in Greater London had a lucky escape but reported that other shops in the area had been affected. “Tesco Express on the opposite parade was broken into last night,” he said. 

Retailers have been advised to put safety first and ensure that they and their staff are fully protected. 

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said  “retailers need to keep in contact with each other and local people to get the earliest warning of any impending problems”.

Lowman also praised the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) for the advice it provided for retailers affected by the violence. NIIRTA's advice was based on retailers' experience of Ulster unrest.

PayPoint has also pledged to support its retail agents caught up in the riots. A spokesman said it was aware of the situation and would not be “subjecting them to the usual remedial procedure or charges if they fail their daily direct debits for reasons out of their control as a result of the riots”. He said PayPoint wanted to provide one less pressure for retailers to have to cope with while they protect their businesses.

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