Holiday returns checklist for small businesses

3 minute read

As the holiday season approaches, and Canadians start shopping, it’s important to set your business up for success. How you market your business and manage your backend operations matters. Even how you handle returns can be incredibly impactful.

Use holiday returns to your advantage

To go the extra mile for customers, use your returns policy to support your online business and meet shoppers’ expectations.

Extend your holiday returns timeline to satisfy customers

Consider offering a holiday returns window that extends until the end of January – or even early February – as a courtesy for those who shop early for gifts. If your regular returns window is only 30 days, early shoppers won’t benefit from it if they shop early and hold onto their gifts until the holidays. Consider marking any purchases made from November to the end of the year as returnable through January, with a must-complete date for returns of January 31, 2021.

Choose a timeline that best suits your business and your customers’ needs. This will build trust with your customers as it will enable them to gift your products with confidence. They’ll know that if they, or their gifts’ recipients, need to complete a return, there will be ample time to do so.

Is your business ready for the holidays? We’ve compiled a checklist of eight action items to help.

View checklist

Give shoppers user-friendly returns options

Offering customers choices and flexibility when it comes to completing returns can go a long way. Despite all the shopper behaviour changes resulting from COVID-19, shoppers still appreciate options for how they can return their e-commerce purchases:

40% of shoppers surveyed said they would choose one retailer over another if they accepted returns by mail or courier.
57% of shoppers surveyed said they would complete returns for online purchases in store when possible in the coming months.

Source: Canada Post. 2020 Spring Survey, 20-208, June 2020.

Here are some key considerations for both online and in-store returns as you navigate the 2020 holiday season:

Online Returns

Offering online returns allows customers to return goods easily. Outline what a customer needs to do as clearly as possible to make the process go smoothly for both of you. Determine:

  • If they will need to include the invoice or packing slip that came with their original order in the return.
  • If you will need to include a prepaid label with the original shipment to facilitate the return.
  • If they will be able to contact your store for a prepaid, on-demand return label.
  • If there is a must-be-mailed-by date to facilitate your holiday returns.

Remember to account for delivery and processing times for returns as well!


Canada Post can help you simplify returns with our returns solutions. Learn more.


Returning goods in store can be easier and quicker for local customers. If you offer in-store returns, ensure customers are informed of your processes and timelines. Communicate the following details to customers:

  • If face masks and/or facial coverings are required within your store.
  • If you have disposable masks and/or hand sanitizer on site.
  • If your current hours of operation have changed due to COVID-19.
  • If there are capacity restrictions within your store to facilitate physical distancing.
  • If you have a separate area or process for returns to facilitate disinfection once the return is processed.

Arm your customers with the information they need to facilitate an enjoyable shopping experience from start to finish.

Be transparent about your returns policies to build customer confidence

No matter how you facilitate returns, make sure your policy is detailed, clear and easy to find on your website. The more detailed and complete your policy is, the more confident shoppers will feel.

You may choose to link to your policy from one or multiple locations on your site. Consider including it in the page footer, your FAQs and at checkout to ensure visibility at all stages of the customer’s purchase journey. Make sure your customer’s experience is seamless from end-to-end.

Our 2020 holiday infographic is here!

Sneak a peek to get our best tips for preparing your business for peak season.

View infographic