Post-holiday returns can be a pain for businesses, especially when it comes to accounting and managing inventory. Here are two tips to help you manage returns during the busiest time of the year.

Develop a Post-Holiday Return Policy

In general, a return policy will help you relay important information to your customers about your company's returns process. In addition to your regular returns policy, it's often beneficial to create policies or specific rules that your customers must follow for their post-holiday returns. Be sure to communicate specifically how you will issue refunds, and include policies on acceptable return time frames, return shipping costs and restocking fees. Both online retailers and brick-and-mortar businesses should establish these types of policies. However, return policies are becoming increasingly important for online shoppers. As UPS reports, comScore research found that 66 percent of online shoppers review a retailer's return policy before making a purchase.

In an effort to help simplify operations, you can choose to issue refunds in the same form as the original payment, require receipts for cash returns or provide gift receipts. Furthermore, if you sell seasonal merchandise, you may want to require a tight return window or implement a final sale policy to help mitigate loss and simplify some tasks associated with inventory tracking.

Whichever course of action you choose, a consistent holiday return policy can help you better manage your product inventory and streamline your operations, especially if you have businesses in more than one location. Before finalizing your policy, you should check to see whether your state's laws have any specific requirements that you need to follow. Once your policy is set, be sure to communicate the terms as clearly and conspicuously as possible so that customers understand exactly what your policy does and does not allow.

Invest In an Inventory Tracking System

Manual inventory tracking is a time-consuming process that can be costly to small business owners. After all, you may have to pay your employees overtime hours to get inventory tasks completed during the holidays. Alternatively, you can invest in an automated inventory tracking system to assist you with managing post-holiday returns. When coupled with bar code technology, inventory tracking software can speed up the inventory process as a whole.

For instance, you can place bar code labels on merchandise tickets either before or at the point of purchase to help you track inventory when a customer makes a return. Moreover, since the purchase information is stored in the bar code, the customer — or gift recipient — can make a return without a receipt. This technology is also helpful if you have seasonal employees who may not know your products very well. An inventory tracking system can offer real-time reporting too, which can help make the return process easier for your customers and less stressful for your business.

By following these two tips, you will be well on your way to streamlining your post-holiday returns process.

Tags: Policies operations