Thousands of London small businesses fear the spate of postal strikes planned for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the run up to Christmas will cause chaos in their deliveries to customers during the busiest time of the year.
Online retailers and other suppliers say the strikes – which begin tomorrow – will lead to more costly disruptions and the headache of extra contingency planning at a time of year when deliveries are most sensitive.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) confirmed yesterday that talks with Royal Mail management had ended without a deal after the privatized postal operator said it had submitted its “best and final” offer.
As well as tomorrow and Monday, strikes are planned on December 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and Christmas Eve.
The confirmation has led businesses and charities to look for alternative, more expensive delivery options to fulfill orders.
A spokesperson for the Federation of Small Business (FSB) said: “Strikes are hitting small businesses from different angles at a time when FSB has seen the lowest level of confidence in a third economic quarter entering the ‘golden quarter’ for retailers – that is. the period leading up to Christmas, the postal strikes place an additional burden on business, damage business confidence and potentially cause small businesses to lose out to larger online competitors.”
Simon Geale, EVP of Procurement at supply chain consultancy Proxima, said: “Black Friday is one of the busiest days for UK retailers and with the bulk of sales now in e-commerce, the Royal Mail strikes are a real concern for retailers and consumers.
“Retailers are struggling to meet delivery demands and consumers are facing serious order delays. Some will try to make deals with couriers like Yodel or DHL, but with an increasing demand for couriers, they are quickly reaching capacity.”
A group of disabled artists called for urgent government action due to the potentially devastating impact of the interruptions. The Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA) have written a letter to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy highlighting the damage the planned postal strikes will do.
Tom Yendell, Board Member of the MFPA, said: “The livelihoods of our artists and myriad small and independent businesses depend on an effective postal service during the crucial trading period when people are sending Christmas cards and the volume of gifts and online shopping is increasing.
“The timing of the strikes could not have been worse, but there is still time to slam the brakes and find alternative ways to attract attention that do not cause financial damage.”
Jessica Willock, home insurance expert at comparison site Confused.com, said: “Black Friday is one of the most popular times to buy online and can lead to delays even in the absence of strikes. The strikes are expected to continue over the holiday season, so there may be some concern about packages arriving before Christmas.
“When ordering items online, the retailer is responsible for getting them to you and making sure they arrive on time and in one piece. So if you are delayed or receive items that are damaged, please contact them directly. It’s also a good idea to take photographic evidence if this happens so the retailer can investigate.”
The Royal Mail CEO said: “The CWU’s planned strike action is holding Christmas ransom for our customers, businesses and families across the country, endangering the jobs of their own members.”
But CWU leader Dave Ward said, “The situation right now is we’re not giving in; no worker and no trade union would accept the jobs, losses and conditions they attach to a future of an industry we care about.”