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When and how should retailers seek legal advice?

The betterRetailing team finds out where and when retailers should seek legal advice, and the steps they need to take

The law can be a complex beast and even the most experienced retailer cannot be expected to know every aspect of it. This lack of knowledge can be potentially dangerous or costly. Getting on the wrong side of the law with customers or staff can have serious ramifications, while a lack of knowledge and understanding around contracts can lead to retailers getting into deals or sticking with agreements that aren’t serving them in the best way possible.

Having someone with an in-depth knowledge of the law at the end of a phone can make a huge difference to retailers’ bottom line and sense of security.

“When I’m doing contracts with suppliers, Costcutter or whoever, I run that contract through my solicitors,” says Kash Nijjar, from Costcutter Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. “They will pick up on things that you would miss because that is their speciality. If you see something that’s confusing or if there’s something you don’t know, ask them. Some people won’t ask because of ego, but if I don’t know, I find out.”

Solicitors, of course, come with a price tag, and not every retailer is willing or able to pay for that. However, there is information and support to be found, particularly from trade bodies such as The Fed and the ACS. Dave Hiscutt, from Londis Westham Road in Weymouth, Dorset, leans heavily on these two institutions to ensure he is properly prepared for any legal issues that might come his way.

“It’s about understanding what your responsibilities are and what you have to be doing,” he says. “Educating yourself and keeping up to date with legislation as it changes have to be a part of what you’re doing as a retailer. The trade bodies will be able to help you. We take a lot of advice from the ACS rather than having a solicitor on hand.”

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