Postal strikes threatened my business


We often attend events and trade fairs and need to put in large orders with our suppliers so we can meet demand. On this occasion, Royal Mail strikes meant our orders were delayed and our plans to push certain products during  the Thames Festival in September 2009 were thwarted.

The challenge

Shortly before we were due to do one of the biggest events this year, we had to order quite a lot of stock in. We thought we'd given enough time for it to arrive, but with the Royal Mail strike, in the week in the run-up to the event, we didn't receive some of our best-selling products. Some of our hand-made bibs for babies, which are very colourful and unique, and therefore very popular, had failed to arrive.

Of course, they all arrived the day after the event - but it wasn't in time for the event itself.

The solution

As far as actually trying to find an alternate plan, we had to try and market the other products that we had in a different way. What we had to do as a replacement was, obviously, provide the ones we still had in stock and market the ones we had as alternatives, and promote those instead.

We took a few orders, but it's difficult with events - people like instant gratification. They say, if you've got it, we'll take it - but if not, I'm not really that interested. We did take a few orders. In the end it was fine, but at the time it caused a few hiccups.

Key lesson

I think, in terms of providers that I would use for postage - for example, some of my suppliers use only couriers, which you're guaranteed a next-day service or a 48-hour service.  

Now, if I am working to a deadline and dealing with a supplier who doesn't use a courier, I will probably say to them, well, I'll pay on this one occasion. If I know there's going to be a problem, I would just want to guarantee that we were going to get our stock in time.

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