How to Set Policies and Rules for Your Retail Store

Couple paying for purchase at furniture store
••• Hero Images/Getty Images

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?
  • 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.