Jewellers have much to fear from the riots

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Jewellers have been a target in the recession and now in the riots.

The UK jewellery industry has suffered more harshly than other retail sectors in the crime wave brought by the recession. As metal prices soared in line with unemployment levels, jewellery shops have seemed like an attractive target for thieves, fuelled no doubt by cash for gold schemes that have made fencing jewellery easier and the increased value of the goods all the more clear.

And as rioters took to the streets of London, Birmingham, Bristol and more last night, jewellery retailers again found themselves in the firing line as looters made jewellers a particular focus of their attacks, alongside electronics, mobile phone and sportswear stores.

As a Hackney resident, I spent last night watching seemingly never-ending trains of riot vans and wailing police cars scream past my flat while police and news helicopters swooped above us. The street on which my one-year-old son’s nursery sits was set alight by masked gangs brandishing metal bars and clashing with police.

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Friends nearby reported gangs of youths stealing bicycles from those simply trying to get home, bins being set alight in the street, shops trashed and volleys of projectiles making arcs above angry crowds. Some even got trapped in areas that had been shut down by police.

While the worst of the violence was minutes away from us, my immediate high street (and local jeweller Metal Crumble) was left unscathed. But others were not so lucky.

Safely barricaded inside my flat, I watched the news and tapped into online feeds to discover horror stories unfolding in all parts of London, and then Birmingham, Bristol and more. And this morning even more atrocities have come to light.

The visuals we have seen of trashed Pandora and Thomas Sabo boutiques, independent jewellers with their shutters ripped open and jewellery, watches and even loose diamonds scattered in the gutters have been shocking.

In my local area we were saved from much of the damage when Turkish shopkeepers united to show the rioters some of the brute force that the police cannot. This show of force stopped them in their tracks and most of our shops were saved from looting and destruction. This story has been little reported but they are true heroes and hopefully we will see a few more heroes emerging in the coming days before further jewellers are annihilated by opportunistic thugs.

The jewellery industry is special because of the luxurious nature of the goods it sells, but unfortunatley the products are not only attractive to shoppers, they are attractive to criminals. And in the following days I expect we will see a rise in the number of people who are willing to cross the line to join in in the swathe of illegal acts destroying our communities with senseless violence.

As I write this column we are already hearing emerging reports from jewellers in Hatton Garden who are shutting up shop. There is no violence in the area yet, but the feedback is that it is better to be safe than sorry.

While it is not a time to panic, it is certainly a time to be aware and prepare for the worst if your shop is in an area likely to attract looters gone wild in what is now a very frightening summer of discontent.

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