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Postal strikes deliver a blow to mail order

Mail order and internet retailers were dealt a bitter blow by the postal strike this week, which delayed hundreds of thousands of catalogues that were en route to customers.
Postal workers from the Communication Workers Union went on strike this week as part of a dispute over pay and restructuring, bringing the Royal Mail’s delivery service to a near halt for almost a week. chief executive Nick Robertson said the company was considering terminating its business with Royal Mail, which it uses for some of its deliveries. He said: “The strike has had an impact on the business financially. We have implemented our contingency plan and are using couriers. It is not ideal – in a crisis like this, once the strike is called off there will be a backlog.

“This could be the beginning of us ending our business with Royal Mail. We would look at using couriers in future and there would be price increases, but also some cost savings and better guaranteed service.”

Discount mail order firm M&M Direct said the postal strikes had held back the delivery of 600,000 of its catalogues, which could defer sales and affect the usual peak-and-trough patterns of trading. Chief executive Mike Tomkins said the strikes would be a “huge cost” to the business and added that uncertainty surrounding future postal strikes was a concern.

The most recent strike ended on Wednesday morning. As Drapers went to press Royal Mail said it had about half a day’s backlog to clear.
However, N Brown chief executive Alan White said the impact on his business had been minimal and pointed out that 85% of his orders came via telephone or the internet. N Brown uses Royal Mail to post catalogues to its customers, but deliveries are handled by a private company so were unaffected.

White said: “It is inevitable this will delay the receipt of some marketing material, but we mail very frequently so no customers will be without a catalogue. It may delay our Christmas catalogue by three to four days. It’s more of a nuisance than anything else.”

Littlewoods said the strike had not hit its business so far, but it was “monitoring the situation closely”. Littlewoods’ catalogues and goods are delivered via private home delivery business Home Delivery Network.

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