NYC Transit Strike: A Grinch, a Present and a Holiday Lesson for Businesses Large and Small

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Last month's transit strike in New York City proved to be a Grinch for local merchants, a holiday present for online retailers and a lesson for merchants large and small. Though the strike lasted just three days, the repercussions will be felt for years.


It's estimated that area businesses lost $200 million to $400 million a day. As New Yorkers walked to and from work along streets lined with darkened stores unable to open because of the strike, online retailers saw an influx of traffic on their Web sites akin to the traffic lined up at checkpoints throughout the city's tunnels and bridges.


Online retailers typically enjoy booming sales from Thanksgiving to mid-December, tapering off as Christmas nears. Booming sales as late as the third week of December are something online retailers often dream of but never see -- at least not until 2005 when strike-affected shoppers flocked to the Internet to finish their shopping.


Internet marketing firms quickly got online retailers to offer free shipping and guaranteed delivery to take advantage of this chance to win the dollars and the loyalty of these shoppers. Online retailers like Jcrew.com and Ice.com offered free guaranteed shipping to customers, and sales soared. If they delivered on their promises, they will gain the loyalty of those shoppers for years to come.


One lesson many merchants learned from the strike is the need for an online presence. No matter how large or small, an online presence can bolster sales and protect against similar problems in the future. Shoppers are more loyal than many retailers realize, and they will look first for a merchant's Web site to buy a planned gift before they search for sites of competitors. With billions of dollars at stake, the need for an online presence cannot be overstated.


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