Business Strategy

How to Set Policies and Rules for Your Retail Store

How to Set Policies and Rules for Your Retail Store

The best time to establish policies and procedures for your retail store is during the planning stages. By anticipating problems before you open your doors, you can strategize how you’ll handle special situations, as well as the normal day to day operations. This helps avoid making mistakes once you’re faced with real-life customers.

Document each policy in a procedures manual or employee handbook. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a three-ring binder that you can continue to update as time goes by. Make several copies of the manual, give one to each employee and store a spare near the cash register for easy reference. To begin creating policies, decide how you would like for your retail store and your employees to handle these items of business. Then ask yourself the following questions:

Types of Payment

  • What forms of currency do you accept?
  • What information is required from a customer paying by check (cheque)?
  • Do you extend credit or offer terms to customers?
  • How do you handle returned checks?
  • Which credit cards do you accept?
  • How much money will you keep in the till?

Product Pricing

  • What is your store’s markup?
  • Have you created a pricing strategy?
  • Do you offer discounts on bulk purchases?
  • Do you offer employee discounts?


  • Will you allow layaway purchases?
  • How much will the customer be required to pay down?
  • How long do you allow items to remain on layaway?
  • Where will you store layaway items?
  • What kind of paper trail will you use to track layaways?

Returns and Exchanges

  • Do you sell any merchandise where returns are prohibited by law?
  • How liberal are you on returns and exchanges?
  • In what condition should the merchandise be returned?
  • Is there a period of time for which an item may be refunded or exchanged?
  • Will you require proof of purchase before exchanging or refunding?
  • What data will you collect from the customer on the Merchandise Return Form?
  • Where will your return policy be posted?

Special Orders

  • Will you special order merchandise for customers?
  • How much, if any, will you require as a deposit?
  • What will you do if the customer doesn’t return for the item?

Hours of Operation

  • What are the normal hours of operation?
  • Will you have extended hours during the holiday shopping season?
  • What holidays will the store close?

Other Store Policies and Procedures

  • Who will be responsible for the general housekeeping of the store?
  • Will you offer gift wrap? If so, at what cost?
  • Will your store have a gift registry?
  • What’s the policy for groups soliciting donations?
  • How will you handle product loss due to damage or theft?
  • What is your shoplifting policy and procedures?
  • Will your store have a gift registry?
  • What customer service practices will your store incorporate?
  • Does your store provide delivery service?
  • What will you do in the event of a power failure?

Think of your store policies and procedures as a guide, rather than being set in stone. In order to reasonably satisfy the customer, some situations may call for bending the rules. Make sure forms of payment, returns, layaways and other policies are clearly posted for customers to see and maybe even included on your receipts. This will allow you to easily and confidently enforce your rules. As your business grows and you gain more experience operating your retail business, periodically review and revise policies as necessary.


Creating a Return Policy for Your Online Store

A return policy summarises the rules sellers establish to inform and guide the process by which customers can return or exchange items. These are items that have been purchased but are unwanted or defected. Online shoppers do not have the privilege to touch or feel a product before it is purchased as applicable in a brick and mortar store. For this reason, online sellers are advised to prepare against receiving massive returns by putting in place a return policy.

Having a return policy will guide against a huge inventory of returned stock and also help your customers make informed decisions before purchasing items. However for your return policy to have a positive effect, ensure you create a policy that is informative and easy to understand. Also ensure the process outlined is simple and hassle free.You should also note that this is also a good way of providing customer service. Online shoppers want the comfort of knowing they can return or exchange a product, if they don’t like it. Therefore, they are more motivated to buy an item once they see there is a return policy available.

Here are a few guidelines to creating a return policy:

Make it visible
Some sellers don’t like to put out a return policy because they feel customers will take advantage and return items unnecessarily. That is a wrong notion. A clearly stated return policy will give a clear direction as to what can be returned and cannot be returned. Make sure it can be read on your web page before purchase and also either on the delivery package or receipt after purchase.

Make it simple and easy to understand
Clear communication is key. Do not use complex words. This will only confuse customers and lead to complications. Let your return policy be brief, clear and straight to the point.

Do not copy and paste
Do not copy someone else’s return policy. It is not a one size fits all. You need to tailor and personalize it to your business and target audience.

Outline the process involved
Will you be offering solely exchanges or refunds, or doing both? You need to state this and the specific process involved. Establish what will work best for your business and state it there.

Educate your staff
Ensure your staff are well trained and up to date on your return policy and procedures. This will help them to attend to customers more effectively.

Key Points to Address in a Return Policy

State time frame for returns
Let your customers know how long they have to return a product, if not you will find customers returning items even after months and this is not good for your business.

Expected condition of item
When creating your return policy, define the condition a product must be before a return can be processed. This can be either in its original packaging or without the tags taken out. Without stating this, goods will be retuned to you in any form.

Refund/ Exchange type:

Will the money be returned, or item exchanged for another one or a voucher given for the next purchase. This needs to be stated. If you offer refunds, you need to state how long it will take.

Fees associated with shipping
Clearly state who will be responsible for the cost of shipping returns? If it is the customer, clearly state that. Customers do not like to find out there is a fee involved after the process has been intiated (hidden fees).

If you keep having the same item returned over and over again, then you need to find out what is wrong. Analyse your returns data. Engage with customers to find out their reason for returns. Sometimes it might just be an issue that can be resolved on the spot saving you the hassle and expense of a return.

All these tips will be helpful in managing dissatisfied customers. However, the ultimate goal of delivery is to meet customer satisfaction and also to reduce complaints and returns. Ensuring you provide clear and accurate product descriptions as well as images that show the product from multiple views can prevent this returns. For example, a sizing chart will be appropriate for clothing sellers. Also a seller who deals with electronics can send an email after products have been delivered explaining how these products can be assembled.

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