Retailers in Birmingham faced a night of terror on Monday as organised gangs carried out an orchestrated spree of rioting that left many stores severely damaged.

The city centre was targeted in what Kevin Breese, general manager of the city’s Harvey Nichols store in the Mailbox, described as “very organised looting,” as organised gangs with ‘spotters’ targeted retailers selling electricals, mobile phones, designer clothes and tobacco.

The Bullring shopping centre was closed early after coming under attack, when doors and windows were smashed. There was more rioting in the city on Tuesday night, but a more robust approach from police meant that less damage was done.

Breese described terrifying scenes at the Mailbox, where “hundreds of marauding people” looted stores. Mailbox security staff used fire extinguishers to deter the mob, but that didn’t prevent some shops being trashed, such as Armani, which was overwhelmed in three minutes.

“There were hundreds of marauding people, gangs with knives, swords, machetes. They did Armani in three minutes – putting a concrete block through, getting the shutters up, and taking everything. Mannequins, coathangers, everything.”

Breese said he had been home for only two hours on Monday night and stayed in the Mailbox on Tuesday night. At the Bullring, most stores were open for business on Wednesday, although JD Sports and Foot Locker remained closed.

Breese insisted it was essential that the disturbances were not allowed to derail Birmingham’s retail renaissance. “We have to make sure we work with every authority we can to stop this.”