Retailers count cost of RBS group banking glitch

Some 44% of UK retailers said that the banking glitch which caused payment and account problems for RBS and NatWest customers on 2 December had a negative impact on sales, according to a new survey.

UK e-tail trade association IMRG, which counts Asos, B&Q and TK Maxx among its members, found that of those retailers affected, the average loss in daily sales was 4.3%, although one retailer reported sales were down 17% as a result of the problems.

From early evening on 2 December, which had been marketed as 'Mega Monday' and 'Cyber Monday' due to it traditionally being the busiest shopping day of the year, some customers of the RBS group reported that they were unable to make transactions, withdraw money or transfer cash between accounts.

A number of retail businesses have now spoken out about the problems, and they have tried to measure the impact the glitch had on trading during the day.

Neil Sansom, eCommerce director at formal clothing retailer Moss Bros, said: "Mega Monday was a strong trading day for Moss Bros with Black Friday also now firmly established in the UK promotional calendar.

"We still expect online trading to increase in the lead-up to Christmas and traditionally our sale post Christmas is also very strong. The RBS banking glitch undoubtedly adversely affected sales and we extended our Mega Monday promotion for a further 24 hours so RBS customers were not disappointed after receiving numerous customer requests."

Director of eCommerce at fashion retailer Hobbs Gracia Amico added: "As for our sales peaks, Cyber Monday did not see an extraordinary increase.

"However, maybe more surprisingly, Black Friday did seem to have impacted our sales as we saw a real peak in traffic and a very high conversion rate. We are expecting this week to see further growth but the biggest day might very well be Boxing Day."

A total of 48% of retailers questioned by IMRG said they were unaffected by the banking problems, and many of these companies put their resilience down to the range of payment and delivery options they offer customers.

One unnamed retailer reported that it surpassed expectations for the day, and indicated that it offers a variety of payment methods including AMEX and PayPal, which may have helped avert any potential missed sale with an RBS customer. Some 8% of retailers surveyed said they were uncertain if the glitch had impacted sales at all.

IMRG's research also shows that retailers are expecting their peak sales period to arrive later than in previous years, which it suggests is due to growing customer confidence in online shopping.

The majority of respondents (60%) believe their peak online trading day will fall between 8-17 December, while 46% predict it will be between the five-day period ending today (12 December).

Sean McKee, head of eCommerce & customer services at Schuh, commented: "For Schuh the key day pre-Christmas is likely to be evenly spread between 9-16 December.

"Over the past couple of years we have seen the peak move pronouncedly closer to Christmas, with mobile users in particular tending to peak within the last two weeks. For them, Sunday 15th and Monday 16th are certainly going to be the days to watch."