What is the real cost of strike action?

As the dust settles on the piles of undelivered mail sitting in sorting offices nationwide following the first of what could be a series of national strikes last week, many have turned their attention to assessing the potential financial cost of the dispute.

The DMA this week estimated the cost to business of lost, postponed or cancelled direct mail campaigns could total £10m, while others have put the total bill at £1.5bn.

Direct marketers have also been queuing up to issue the Royal Mail with dire warnings about its future.

Advertiser body ISBA said companies could move their business away permanently and turn from direct mail to email as a consequence of strike action.

Robert Keitch, chief of membership and brand at the DMA recently warned that the strikes “will only serve to undermine the commercial value of post as a means of doing business”.

As cheerleader-in-chief for and a major producer of direct mail, the Royal Mail needs to be alert to warnings from such an informed sources.

Further food for thought came from shadow business secretary Kenneth Clarke, who, perhaps sensing a political opportunity to appear as a tough-talking decision maker, revealed the Tories would move quickly to privatise the service if elected next May. Indeed, to this end he said that “private, confidential meetings” had already been had with potential suitors.

So, has strike action irretrievably dented the long-term prospects of direct mail as a marketing channel, as some are suggesting? And has it hastened the fundamental change to the structure of UK mail services a sell-off would undoubtedly cause?

With regards to the former, the worst case scenario is far from being reached but even before the strike action, the new digital world meant the Royal Mail was already handling 10% less mail each year as the use of email and the internet grows. The strike action will only accelerate this shift.

And although Clarke’s hard-hitting words will be interpreted by some as political posturing timed to win over wavering voters, the frustration caused by the strikes could be well harden the Tories’ resolve to succeed where the Government failed in July and find a private investor.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here