Altering Your Return Policy For The Holiday Season

Many small retailers have very controlled, very time sensitive return policies. While this is absolutely the best way to support their business from a day to day basis, the holidays bring some exceptions that are worth considering.

The first thing to consider is the timeline of your return policy. If you have a two week return policy from the date of purchase, this may not allow a gift giver to get the gift for the holiday season under the terms that the gift receiver can return or exchange it after the holidays.  The most effective way for small retailers to handle this is to decide from what start date to what end date they will accept returns or exchanges during this time of year. Many business owners consider Thanksgiving as a good start date with shortly after New Year’s as a fair end date. Extending this timeline to just before Thanksgiving, such as mid November, to mid January can be even more effective and supportive of your consumers. Whatever timeline you decide is best for your business, make sure to promote this so that your customers are aware of this special holiday return policy for gifts only. Include these details in your store front window, through an email blast and near your check out area leading up to and during the holidays.

The second thing to consider are the terms of your return policy. Will you accept returns or only exchanges? Are there any products that are not acceptable for returns, such as undergarments or jewelry? Whatever specifics you want to be clear to your customers, let them know. This includes items that may not be gifts but purchases for themselves. Leave no room for exceptions here in an effort to avoid an upset customer later. Include these details on their printed receipt, as well as make a sign that is visible during their check out at the store. In addition, it’s always a good idea to have store associates tell customers about your return policy before or during the check out procedure.

The third thing to consider is making sure your customers are supportive of your extended holiday return policy. By being supportive, they simply need to be aware so that they can’t claim later they weren’t aware of the return or exchange details. One way to do this is to have any customer who purchases a gift initial the gift receipt so that upon return, you are aware that the gift giver was informed of the policy. This helps avoid extended returns on products they may have purchased for themselves, as well, since you will not have to ask them to initial the receipt. Do make sure that if you offer returns or exchanges, you only do so with the receipt of the product. Make ALL points that you want included in your policy visible to your consumers not only on the receipt, but in a clear posting at your cash wrap station, as well.

Finally, be realistic with the complications this may bring. While you should do everything in your effort to prepare  yourself, your store employees and your customers for this extended policy with new terms included, you need to also be ready for some hiccups along the way. Tis’ the season for customers who want to push the limits! But supporting your store with an extended holiday return policy is likely to open up more opportunity for sales than not extending your policy at all.

Have other ideas on what works for your store? Let us know!

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