The cost of retail vandalism and how to get rid of graffiti

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Posted by: Andy Morris | Last modified on 28/11/2019

Shoppers care about appearances. With experiential shopping still top of customers’ list of expectations, environment is just as important as product. How retail premises look on the outside tells customers what they can expect to find inside, so it’s vital that storefronts always look their best. That’s why when graffiti appears on the high street or in a shopping centre, it’s essential to act within 24-48 hours, to avoid the knock-on effect of reduced retail sales, a drop in footfall, lower property values and the ‘broken windows theory’ – that graffiti is a clear sign of an area going downhill.


The real cost of graffiti

Every year, graffiti causes millions of pounds’ worth of damage to retail properties across the UK, according to figures from Freedom of Information reports by councils nationwide – from Manchester to Brighton1. Bristol alone spends around quarter of a million pounds annually on cleaning unwanted graffiti2. Removing it is a tricky task for those who trade seven days a week and lack the resources or equipment to deal with the problem. While councils are responsible for public buildings, private premises owners and shopping centre managers are liable to get rid of any graffiti that appears on store exteriors – so it’s worth turning to a specialist graffiti cleaner to get the job done.


Getting rid of graffiti

When cleaning graffiti, it’s important for the team doing the work to use technology that is quick and efficient without requiring access to mains electricity or water to minimise impact on shoppers and staff. This sort of technology allows work to be done at any time outside of trading hours, causing little disruption.


Graffiti is best removed using a mixture of steam, hot water and, if necessary, chemicals. Steam cleaning uses pressurised steam to effectively and totally remove contaminants from surfaces. Vandals typically use aerosol spray paint, although sometimes they’ll use other substances, including waxy contaminants, marker pens, emulsion and glass paint. With a ‘thermo shock’ effect, steam cleaning overheats and breaks down the contaminant without damaging the surface, whether it’s render, masonry or softer substrates such as wood.


No two surfaces are the same and the expertise of the graffiti removal team will determine the results and any associated damage to the cleaned surface. Shoddy workmanship, the use of incorrect graffiti remover or poor preparation of the surface to be repainted can cause shadows, scarring or peeling – leaving the exterior looking worse than before.


Deterring vandalism

There are prevention tactics retailers can employ themselves to deter vandalism. Improve storefront visibility with exterior lighting that’s unreachable from the ground and restrict access by creating barriers with shrubbery or planters with prickly plants. Ensure outdoor furniture and fixtures can’t be moved and used as ladders – if a graffitist can’t easily reach a surface, they’re unlikely to make an extra effort to deface it. Regular removal of graffiti further demoralises the perpetrators as in most cases they are buying their own paint. If it’s removed time after time, they will find somewhere else to tag their message. Consider the use of coatings that prevent the absorption of paint too. While it doesn’t stop graffiti occurring, it does make the clean up easier and cheaper. 


Ultimately, an area that’s clean and tidy is far less likely to attract further graffiti attacks and crimes like burglary, as it sends a message that it’s well cared for and secured. Of course, a storefront on a high street or even in a retail centre can’t be entirely graffiti proof, but with the resources to get rid of it if it does appear and a determent plan in place, retailers can avoid the costly and time-consuming task of a messy clean up.


About the author
Andy Morris is Director of OneFifty, commercial exterior cleaning specialists providing services to a wide range of businesses nationwide. They have worked with major players in the retail sector, including B&Q and Tesco. Their tried, tested and proven processes using state-of-the-art technology, alongside an in-depth understand of a wide range of building materials, allow them to offer unsurpassed standards of cleaning, while mitigating the risk of damage to premises.


At Revo, we support the people and businesses involved in the diverse world of retail property and placemaking to thrive and prosper. Get in touch to find out more.