For me, I start to get in the holiday spirit when I see the John Lewis advert on the telly. Sometimes this is earlier than I might like to realise, as I’m yet to make the lists and do the shopping (last minute is my middle name), but as a business owner you can never be organised too early.
Christmas is arguably one of the busiest periods for many businesses. Sales peak, which is always amazing to see, but, with great power comes great responsibility. This brings me on to this month’s topic: the legal issues you should be aware of when selling this festive period. I know, it’s not the most joyful holiday topic, but it is incredibly important to be aware of these so that you and your business are fully protected. In this article, we’re look
As a teenager in the days between Christmas and New Year, I was always excited to head into town and spend my pennies in the sales. Trawling through to find that perfect pair of boots and winter coat at a discounted price was the highlight of the holidays. For many businesses, Christmas time and the January sales are a good way to offload current stock to clear the shelves for the new year ahead, give back to your client base and even reel in some new customers by offering promotions such as discounted prices, 2 for 1 deals, etc.
If this is something your business will be taking part in, it’s very important that you think carefully about the promotions you’re offering. Any price reductions must be genuine: it can’t just be a marketing ploy.
Here are some tips:
1. Make sure you cover promotions in your terms and conditions. This will include things such as when the promotion begins, what it entails, when it ends and the returns process – make sure to cover all of your bases so you don’t receive backlash from customers!
2. When it comes to products on offer, apply the discount price on which the item has been sold for the longest time.
3. Ensure you are able to fulfil orders with stock. Your deal might be irresistible, so make sure you have sufficient stock. Putting the term ‘subject to availability’ can be helpful.
4. Be specific with your timeframes and stick to it. Don’t say the offer is only for a limited time over Christmas if your intention is to keep it going into the New Year. Shoppers feel the need to make purchases with urgency before it’s ‘too late’ – you don’t want them left with a sour taste in their mouth. This may also cause you to fall foul of trading standards.
With more sales, what’s bound to follow? Returns! Christmas presents bought may not have hit the mark, something may not fit, or people may just change their minds – it happens! Including an airtight returns policy is necessary throughout the course of selling anyway, but it’s even more important that this is in place throughout this busy period.
Now for sales made in person, you don’t have to have a returns policy and you can state that all sales are final. If you do have one in place, you have to follow what it says (i.e, you can’t change your mind and do something differently). You should include this in an obvious place such as on the receipt or order confirmation.
To be eligible for a return, your customer should have their receipt, the card they paid with and ideally the original packaging (but that’s a good to have, not a need to have). It’s obviously paramount that the goods being returned are in the same condition as when purchases and so should be unworn, unopened and unsoiled.
With online selling, you should include your returns policy within your T&Cs (that includes covering your promotional selling as above, you don’t want people asking for a full price refund when they paid the discounted rate). Outline how your specific returns policy works.
You should also outline the ‘cooling off period’ – under consumer rights, in most cases, your customers should have 14-days to return or cancel their order without having to give a reason. This does NOT apply to perishable items, digital products or anything made bespoke. In these cases, all sales are final unless the product isn’t as described, not fit for purpose, faulty or of unsatisfactory quality: you should still make this clear in your terms.
Gift cards in lieu of cash
This relates directly to the topic of refunds. If a customer would like to return the product they purchased, can you offer them a gift card instead of refunding the cash value? You absolutely can, you just need to make this incredibly clear in your T&Cs / the order confirmation to avoid any kickback. However, this is only for unwanted products, i.e if the buyer has just changed their mind. If the product goes against consumer rights, you must offer the full cash refund.
Last tip? Try not to alienate your non-believing customers. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, so just be mindful in your marketing!
Get in touch!
At Jamieson Law, we pride ourselves on helping small businesses understand their legal obligations and trying to make everything a bit less daunting (we understand that the legal can feel pretty intimidating at times).
If you feel like you could benefit from some 1:1 advice on anything mentioned above, so you’re prepared in time for this busy period or any other legal matter, please take advantage of our free 15-minute legal advice calls. These are not sales calls; just our way of giving back to the business community. You can book a slot here.