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UK riots: “We shall overcome”

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The overriding message from entrepreneurs across the country after the riots is that it has to be “business as usual”.

I’m not going to dwell on the whys and wherefores of the riots – my opinions are very clear on my blog. But as a born-and-bred London businessman, I was so proud of the reaction from my fellow business owners in the capital. 

When I wrote in this column several months ago that small and medium-sized businesses have the grit and determination to get through this turbulent time, I was referring to the economic state of the country and not an unexpected social uprising. However, the sentiment is proving to still be the same – whether it’s bankers and traders involved in slight-of-hand practices to put the economy in danger or a bunch of yobs playing games of smash and grab.

It demonstrates the spirit of British business owners. Nothing personifies that more than the Reeves family in Croydon. Their 144-year-old store, House of Reeves, survived the Depression, two World Wars and several recessions, only to be burned to the ground in the riots. 

I was moved to watch Trevor and Graham Reeves, the great-great grandsons of the company’s original founder, fighting back the tears in TV interviews as they watched their store crumbling. But the brothers have vowed to carry on and continue trading from their other site and not allow the Reeves name to join the list of brands consigned to the history books. 

As business owners, we will continue to fight on. In the words of the US Civil Rights movement anthem: “We Shall Overcome”. 

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