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Retailers Prepare To Guard Stores Against Looting If Election Protests Erupt

National Guardsmen patrol The Pike Outlets in Long Beach, California, Monday, June 1, 2020.

After suffering damage and loss at the hands of looters during nationwide protests of police brutality and systemic racism this summer, retail owners want to be prepared for the next looming political flashpoint.

Store owners, especially those who sell apparel and other easily transportable merchandise, are exploring different security options in case of demonstrations surrounding Election Day, Reuters reports. Store owners have been assessing options like security guards, reinforced glass and roll-down metal doors. Some of those measures are already being set up or arranged to be deployed if and when tensions do flare.

The stores most directly affected by looters have been the ones already hit hard by the multiyear rise of e-commerce and the coronavirus-induced reticence to shop in person. Foot Locker reported $18M of losses directly tied to "social unrest" in its August quarterly report, while luxury retailers like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Nordstrom are still boarded up on Chicago's Magnificent Mile retail corridor, even though they remain open for business, Reuters reports.

Scaffolding company Starr Industries in New York, which built protection for the famed "glass cube" Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, has been hired to be on standby by multiple NYC retailers, Starr President Marian Bobelea told Reuters. Reinforced glassmakers have been installing stronger windows in hundreds of stores across the country as well.

A report published in September by the U.S. government-funded nonprofit Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project found that at least 93% of Black Lives Matter protests this year have been peaceful, with much of the violence that has occurred precipitated by asymmetrical shows of force from law enforcement. But looting of private businesses still took place, even though some was found to be instigated by white supremacists potentially seeking to discredit the racial justice protests.

The majority of businesses affected by rioters and looters were located in urban areas, whereas suburban retailers have been extending their businesses more and more into nearby parking lots to keep revenue flowing in during times of social distancing, The Wall Street Journal reports.