Rail strike disruption sees online boost to revenues for UK retailers

Industrial action on the rail networks prompted a boost to ecommerce revenues last week as shoppers ventured online to beat travel disruption, the latest data from Wunderkind, the leading performance marketing channel that scales one-to-one messages for retailers and brands, reveals.

Data from Wunderkind’s Marketing Pulse, which analysed over 32.5 thousand shopper journeys, showed that UK digital revenues saw a significant year-on-year boost on the strike days, with many shoppers compelled to stay at home due to strike disruption, and choosing to switch from shopping in shops to visiting retailers’ online stores.  On the first day of rail strike action (Wednesday 1st February), year-on-year digital revenues rose +37.8%, while on the second day of the strike (Friday 3rd February) the disruption to travel had an even more marked impact on ecommerce performance, with digital revenues up +40.55% year-on-year.

Wulfric Light-Wilkinson, General Manager International at Wunderkind, commented:

“The retail sector has been hit with unprecedented levels of turbulence and unpredictability over the last few years, and that includes the industrial action we’re now seeing.  In-store footfall understandably dipped on the strike days, but our data shows that many retailers were able to leverage their ecommerce offerings to make up some lost ground – an example of the omnichannel retail model coming into its own.

Beyond increasing digital revenues, traffic boosts like this present an important opportunity for brands to grow their first-party customer database and build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with consumers.”

Whilst online retailers saw a boost to ecommerce sales on Friday 3rd February, the High Street footfall performance struggled.  Despite seeing some early resilience from shoppers on the 1st day of the strike, shopper traffic dipped -5.3% week-on-week on Friday, according to footfall data from Sensormatic Solutions.

Andy Sumpter, Sensormatic Solutions’ EMEA Retail Consultant, commented:

“Retail footfall showed some resilience at the start of the week, with shopper counts even seeing a boost on Wednesday 01 Feb as consumers defied the rail strikes, suggesting some shoppers are learning to live with the continued strike disruption, while the teaching strike also brought about a change to consumers’ routines and could have contributed to the uplift as some parents took extra days off to cater for childcare with many schools closed.  However, this resilience was short-lived and come Friday the week’s upheaval had clearly taken its toll, with UK footfall seeing a -5.3% drop compared to the week before, as shoppers stayed home or chose to delay trips in-store to avoid the disruption.”

Birmingham was the city to see the biggest drop in footfall on Friday, down -17.8% week-on-week, with major shopping hubs including Leeds and Liverpool also seeing decreased shopper visits compared to the Friday prior, down -11.1% and 8.4% respectively, while London saw a -6.9% dip.

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