A national postal strike would be “devastating” for some home shopping firms and local strikes in progress have already caused problems, retailers warned.

The local strikes have already disrupted some deliveries and catalogue distribution, and the situation would only be exacerbated by a national stoppage. Ballot results were awaited as Retail Week went to press.

Steve Law, operations director at  toy and gadget retailer Firebox, said: “The effect of the postal strikes is devastating. Customers ordering time-sensitive gifts have no faith, so are being forced to pay for upgraded guaranteed courier services or,  worse still for both them and us, are not placing the order online.”

M&M Direct chief executive Steve Robinson said that business has already been hit – many of M&M’s catalogues have arrived late. “We have tried to schedule drops for before any possible strike action,” he added.

Robinson said that bigger companies could cope with a small loss of sales but the action, combined with the downturn, could be very dangerous for smaller businesses. He urged the Government to help.

Law said: “If these strikes continue – especially if we have national strikes in the Christmas period – they will drive many smaller companies out of business and make lots of people redundant.”

Iwantoneofthose.com head of finance Kieran Clinton-Tarestad said the etailer would stick with Royal Mail as its main delivery provider for now. “Although we have contingency plans, it’s too hasty to make changes yet,” he said.

“Christmas is so critical to us as a small, seasonal retailer that we will be doing everything we can to ensure our customers reliably receive their purchases.”

An eBay spokesperson said: “Many of the 120,000 businesses registered and trading on eBay rely heavily on Royal Mail for their deliveries. The postal strike is therefore a severe threat to the livelihoods of online firms, and public confidence in an increasingly important part of the economy could be dented.”