Off-licences, convenience stores and supermarkets were looted in the violence which stretched police resources.
Violence spread overnight to many parts of London, plus Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool, Birmingham and Leeds, after police fought running battles with masked youths in the Hackney area of London on Monday afternoon.
The Daily Telegraph reported dozens of looters smashing the windows of an off-licence in Clarence Road in Hackney.
It said wads of cash were thrown into the crowds outside and youths with their faces covered emerged with their arms full of bottles of spirits which were “swigged amid the carnage”.
The Association of Convenience Stores said retailers should close and use shutters where possible to protect their business, if violence was occurring in the area or they were in any doubt.
It said employers should consider the safest place for themselves and staff and go there quickly.
Chief executive James Lowman said: “The images of local community stores being looted and destroyed by violent criminals are sickening.
“Retailers need to keep in contact with each other and local people to get the earliest warning of any impending problems.
“People are more important than property. Retailers’ first concerns must be to protect themselves and their staff.”
Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “There may be genuine economic or community relations grievances in these areas but they will not be helped by torching shops.”