The Royal Mail strike planned to start on Thursday 19th October has been halted after a High Court injunction. Despite the ban, there are persistent rumours that some workers will strike after the 11am essential deliveries. But this is a first warning sign for retailers of all sizes who have put all their eggs in one basket and have been waiting nervously on recent Royal Mail decisions and at such an important time anyone in ecommerce and retailing should be undertaking contingency planning now.
Royal Mail took the fight to the High Court and argued that the union was in breach of its contractual obligation and should not have called for strike action until an agreed external mediation process was held. Yet this mediation process could take the issue into the retail hotspots of Black Friday and Christmas and leave many e-commerce and marketplace retailers struggling to fulfil orders. With the Royal Mail still handling around 50% of all parcels it is a worrying time for even the larger players in the retail sector.
Abbas Ali, Managing Director of Parcel Warehouse, sees the situation remaining unclear in the run up to Black Friday and Christmas and in the long-term retailers and online traders need to look beyond the one provider solution.
“It is not simply a case of worrying about Black Friday or even Christmas for many retailers. It is about considering the long-term solution that will enable them to fulfil their orders. Short-term fixes and relying just on Royal Mail is not the answer. When it comes to deliveries and customer expectations there are never excuses and leaving your clients frustrated and annoyed with your service, even though it is not through your own actions, can see them simply move to a different provider.”
With the threat of continuing action into the New Year and a long-running dispute over pay and working conditions dogging Royal Mail, retailers and ecommerce providers need to invest time in finding alternative carriers and more flexible delivery solutions according to Abbas Ali.
“There are so many alternatives but they mean having to work with multiple suppliers and frustrating timings. Our experience is that B2C businesses do not want to tie up their time and energy into managing the deliveries. My advice has always been to talk to logistics solution providers who do not rely on just one carrier and have alternative solutions. What we tell them is that they can be up and running in just 24 hours using Parcel Warehouse and they will be able to benefit from our connections to multiple carriers. No more will they rely on just one capable carrier but they will have the option of alternatives that will fulfil their needs. If you are not wedded to one carrier but have alternatives ready and waiting to deliver for your customers, as we have, then it makes sense to consider a switch. Remember that a dissatisfied customer will not be thinking about how difficult it has been for you to fulfil their order, they will simply be thinking of where else they can buy their goods from the next time they order – and it probably won’t be you.”