Postal strikes have become ‘a thing of the distant past’ in many minds. However, following on from Post Office workers staging a one-day strike at 114 Crown locations in a dispute over pay on the 3rd of May, plus the imminent threat of CWU strikes over Sunday deliveries, there is now going to be a second round of Crown Post Office strikes planned for the Jubilee weekend. With a row over pay continuing, they have been offered a 2% pay rise over two years, and with the cost-of-living crisis gaining further momentum we can only assume that the June strikes won’t be the last that we see in the postal sector.
But what does this uncertainty mean for small businesses who rely on the Post Office to support their business; these latest strikes could be, for some, frustrating at best and catastrophic at worst, and what alternatives are available if these strikes develop into national strikes like the seven-week strike in 1971 that brought the postal industry to a halt?
The ecommerce industry’s main differentiator from the technology industry is in physical fulfilment. Once you have charged your customer for their purchased item, you have to then fulfil your shipping and delivery promises. To excel with marketplace sales, sellers need to ensure that their delivery performance matches consumers’ expectations, in a way that complies with each marketplace’s guidelines. With Post Office and Royal Mail going through much needed major transformation, it does suggest that they will also have to manage the impact of disengagement and potential impact to service performance at times.
There is no doubt that both of the historic brands command great loyalty, almost like the British backbone of our postcode distribution reach. Whether we love or loathe the services in lesser or equal amounts, whether we walk straight in and out or faced with a bus stop size queue, there are still many sellers who rely on that local lifeline to send their goods via the networks with size of their national footprint. With Post Office or Royal Mail strikes potentially increasing, whether as an interim or longer-term fix, other solutions and networks may need to be sought.
Research your options
Thankfully today, consumers, retailers, small businesses, and marketplace sellers have a huge array of delivery options available. From UK only carrier partners to cross-border shipping specialists there are alternatives to the good old Post Office and Royal Mail that provide flexibility, competitive rates.
Depending on your marketplace and their delivery requirements, you may wish to adopt a hybrid fulfilment setup in which you fulfil some orders from your premises (e.g. FBM or traditional eBay selling), utilising a carrier management firm, negating the reliance on the Post office. Or, alternatively, when volumes are at a certain level, utilise a third-party fulfilment provider or marketplace fulfilment (e.g. FBA or eBay’s Global Shipping Programme).
Explore new technology
Utilising shipping software can make life infinitely easier as it does all the heavy lifting for you with carrier rates readily available on one platform. Shipping software probably isn’t something that is on top of your mind when you have just started your online store and you have only a few orders coming in. But when orders start to increase shipping software such as Shippo, as just one example, can save time and money.
Exploring new technology solutions can also help support small businesses in times of crisis or turmoil. Innovative companies such as Stamp Free are looking to revolutionise the carrier and postal sector by putting convenience and simplicity first. The Stamp Free Digital Postage Solution allows businesses and consumers to use the Stamp Free or white-labelled smartphone app to send parcels and letters, as well as return consumer goods, without the need for a postage stamp or carrier label. With this technology there is no need to take parcels to the Post Office to pay for postage, everything can be done via a smartphone at home, at work or out and about. There is also no need for a printer as the technology generates a unique 6-digit code that can be written on any parcel.
Don’t Panic – Alternatives are available!
Whilst the Post Office strikes are currently limited to hundreds (not thousands) of branches, small sellers need not worry too much at this time. However, to mitigate against future strikes and even just to future-proof your business if you currently rely on your local Post Office and Royal Mail to deliver your goods, you may need to start looking into alternative solutions.
For this round of Post Office strikes, if you want to use the Post Office look for one in an independent store as they will probably still be open or, consider printing your postage online and dropping at your local Royal Mail depot.
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