A poll conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce for Sky TV's Jeff Randall Live has found that almost nine out of 10 companies are concerned about a postal strike. And a second Sky News survey has found that three quarters of businesses are considering dropping the Royal Mail as a national strike looms.
At the same time, 93% of businesses think that recent disruption to the postal service has damaged the Royal Mail's reputation.
"The results of this survey are quite explicit, they are very upset by what's happening and they're worried about how it will affect their services," Steve Hughes, economic policy adviser to the British Chambers of Commerce, told Sky's Jeff Randall.
IMRG has also issued a statement on the issue. "IMRG regrets the announcement that Royal Mail postal workers have voted to take strike action over job security and working conditions again this year," it says. "However, we anticipate that this will actually prove to be less of a problem as the online retail industry has been able to put in place contingency plans with other carriers and promote alternative fulfilment solutions — such as 'click & collect'.
IMRG is encouraging all retailers to ensure they have clear messaging regarding their delivery options available to the consumer and provide realistic notification of any limitations or delays.
Members of the Catalogue Exchange, meanwhile, have vowed they won't let customers down in the lead up to Christmas, despite the threat of a national postal strike.
"The rate at which Direct Retailers are switching their postal business to alternative carriers is accelerating," says Catalogue Exchange president Nigel Swabey. "Members are finding that there are cheaper, faster and more reliable services available."
"Only a tiny fraction of all online or catalogue orders are received by post these days," he added. "The vast majority of customers place their order by phone or via the web. They know from experience how to avoid being affected by a postal strike, and they trust their favourite mail order catalogue company or website to ensure their order is delivered. They are right, too. Most catalogue companies have vowed to find a way of delivering all orders, regardless of any additional costs they may incur in the process."
"My biggest concern is that the guidance the Communications Workers Union is offering to its members on this issue may be based on a false premise," Swabey continued. "Judging by the rate with which direct retailers are moving their business to alternative carriers and looking at the massive switch towards online and telephone ordering, we now estimate the decline in postal volumes to be close to 15% per annum. The Royal Mail is only acknowledging that volumes are declining by 10% but it appears that the CWU disputes even this figure."
Both the Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Directors have also issued warnings about the effect the walkout could cause to recession-hit businesses.
"After a very tough year, serious disruption to the postal service would present a real threat to those firms pinning their hopes on a pre-Christmas sales bounce," says John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI. "We need common sense to prevail and lasting damage to be avoided."
"A national postal strike now will be very damaging to business," confirmed Graeme Leach, chief economist at the IoD. "Postal workers need to understand they are shooting themselves in the foot."