Returns and rotas : are you ready?

Clothes hanging up in shop

As we approach Christmas, the signs are that the High Streets are beginning to turn back to pre-COVID levels. As people try and get back to normal there is an increase in footfall and possibly even purchases to try and treat themselves after such a horrid time.

I wonder how many retailers are ready and have organised themselves appropriately? It will be just as busy after Christmas with returns, too. If you are a retailer are you prepared for returns?

A couple of years ago I took some unwanted gifts back to Marks and Spencer soon after Christmas in Taunton.

Clearly it’s a busy time anyway, but at 1.30pm it’s likely to be the busiest time of the day, for obvious reasons. I had the gift receipt but the assistant needed a manager to approve the refund. She tried to phone through and took at least five minutes in doing so. She came back and said that all the managers were at lunch!


She had managed to find someone (I assume who was still in the building) to deal with it. Meanwhile, of course, the queue just grew longer. Given the time of year and the fact that they had closed what used to be a dedicated “Returns Desk” for all returns to be dealt with at the tills, this was going to happen again!

But this issue isn’t just affecting high street giants such as Marks and Spencer. It can easily be a problem for smaller outlets too.

How should stores prepare?

It seems so obvious doesn’t it?

You need to take on extra staff ready for the busy period and ensure that they are trained appropriately and are empowered as much as possible.

Make sure you have people on site who can do any job that needs to be done for a customer throughout the day. Plan your rotas well and have a back-up plan too to cope with illness or unexpected absence! I feel daft even writing it but someone, somewhere in Marks and Spencer either thought it was okay to have no manager able to process returns or simply didn’t plan properly.

Additionally, if you run a big store and people are trained to do one thing, it does make sense to separate skills and processes such as putting in place designated returns desks.

In short, a little forethought and good planning will ensure that your store is well staffed and ready for the coming busy season.


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