The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) is urging retailers to make insurance claims as soon as possible after the riots.

The ACS said retailers who have been victims of looting, arson or other attacks will be able to claim against their insurance.

It said insurance companies will be seeking to claim costs back from local police budgets under the provisions of the Riot Damages Act (1886). In order to do this, claims must be registered within 14 days, and insurance companies need supporting evidence in seven days.

The claims also rely on the Home Secretary declaring the incident a riot.

The ACS said it had also received unconfirmed reports of retailers being uninsured. It said some retailers only insure against fire or business-threatening incidents so some may be uninsured for damage and looting.

It said some stores in affected areas are planning to close early today.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The images of local community stores being looted and destroyed by violent criminals are sickening. Most urban areas in London and elsewhere are safe and will remain so, but retailers need to keep in contact with each other and local people to get the earliest warning of any impending problems. People are more important than property. Retailers’ first concern must be to protect themselves and their staff.

“We are proud to work with Crimestoppers and it is with incidents like these that the 0800 555 111 number can be invaluable. By giving information in confidence, local people including retailers can ultimately win back communities for the law abiding majority.

“ACS is feeding information through Government contacts to COBRA discussions on continuing emergency planning. If retailers have any intelligence that will help the police in preventing further disturbances or on the impact of the riots in your area please contact us.”

ACS added that evidence from Northern Ireland suggests that retail areas can take a long time to recover from rioting, with some retailers deciding not to re-open.