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Postal strike hits online sales and visitor numbers

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A survey of online retailers carried out by IMRG has found that 85% believe the continued threat of postal strike action will discourage customers from placing orders with them for Christmas.

A third of those surveyed have experienced a shortfall in visitor numbers, averaging 24%, and two-thirds have seen a near average 30% fall in revenue since the strike began.

Asked whether they were receiving specific enquiries from consumers about delivery arrangements in relation to the threatened strike action nearly 82% of the retailers surveyed said they had.

And, in a worrying development for Royal Mail, 60% of retailers were finding their new carrier arrangements proving more efficient and over two-thirds were considering not returning to Royal Mail after the strike.

"It is no surprise that online retailers are becoming more concerned as the strike develops," says David Smith, director of operations at IMRG. "Christmas is the most important sales period of the year for most retailers and any year on year shortfall will affect them greatly. Although we have seen year-on-year sales averaging 14% growth during 2009, with the long climb out of recession and continued faltering consumer confidence the Christmas sales period will prove a challenge for most retailers even without the strike action".

"Last week the websites of high street retailers received 16.5% more UK internet visits than the online-only retail players," says Hitwise's Robin Goad. "This compares with 9.3% for the same week last year. Although it should be stated that this is a long term trend and the gap between the two categories has been increasing for a while, there is a danger that more cautious customers may choose retailers with physical locations when ordering online in the run up to Christmas".

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