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Small businesses still picking up the pieces from last year's riots

Posted on 06/08/2012

Dr Rachel Doern has studied the effects of last year's riots on small businesses

A year on from the riots that tore through London, small business are still feeling the effects of the violence and looting that destroyed their livelihoods.

Dr Rachel Doern from the School of Management at Royal Holloway, University for London, who carried out a study from the perspective of small business owners/managers, says: “A small business, unlike many of the large retail chains targeted, is not able to recover as quickly or even at all from such an event, for psychological, financial and physical reasons.”

Dr Doern, a Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship, explains: “The trauma caused by the riots seems to have a profound effect on the business owner/manager, who is the key decision maker, and how they think or feel often dictates the direction that business will take. This is unlike a large business where no one individual feels the direct and profound impact of the crisis. Financially, small businesses do not have the extra cash flow to repair or re-stock as needed, unlike the larger chains and physically the individual owner-manager has difficulties splitting themselves in to all of the roles necessary to recover from such an attack - managing the clean up, re-stocking, replacing staff if necessary, promoting the business to recoup lost customers, dealing with the police, chasing up insurers etc.”

After speaking to many business owners as part of her study she says that whilst she expected people to be upset and angry about what had happened she was surprised by the level of grief and anguish: “These properties and businesses are more than just bricks and mortar. People felt that not only had their livelihood been compromised, but so too had their place in their community. The riots not only damaged the business but also hurt individuals, families, employees and their families and damaged a community.”

Dr Doern says she was also surprised by the inconsistency and variation of help that was given to small businesses by local councils and MPs, with some being left without knowing where to turn. Many of the small businesses affected by the riots were already suffering as a result of the recession and so the combination of the two was the final straw for many.

“The riots placed additional burdens on people who already felt stretched, who live and breathe their businesses, and feel responsible for others – their families, those that work for them, and members of the community for whom they provide a service,” adds Dr Doern.


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