Fortnum & Mason chief executive Beverley Aspinall has demanded tougher action to manage marches in London after the attacks on West End shops last weekend.

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The upmarket food and department store was attacked by protesters from the UK Uncut protest movement last Saturday, as they broke away from the TUC march against government cuts. About 500 protesters occupied the store for about three hours, while paint was daubed and windows broken on the outside.

Aspinall told Retail Week there needed to be better control of marches to stop the disruption to trade. “There is a discussion that needs to be had about how we try to prevent this happening in future,” she said. “These demonstrations are happening with increasing regularity and are getting bigger.

“They need to be diverted away from the main shopping streets of the West End and not be allowed to take place on Saturdays,” said Aspinall, who described the incident as “very distressing for customers and staff”, and “pretty devastating for trade”.

Other retailers including Topshop, Boots and Ann Summers were also targeted. Today New West End Company chairman Dame Judith Mayhew was due to meet with Mayor Boris Johnson to demand more action to control protesters. “This will damage the West End and London’s reputation in the longer term if allowed to continue,” said Mayhew.

Read more about the protests in this week’s Editor’s comment.