Clothes shop legal issues

All retailing businesses have to comply with a certain amount of legislation. The following is an overview of what might be relevant to you.

What licences does a clothes shop need?

Although there are no licensing requirements relating specifically to the retail sale of clothing and accessories there are certain other licences that you may need to get, depending on how your business operates.

Playing music in the shop

If you play background music in the shop you'll need a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd as well as a further licence from PPL for if you want to play music videos.

Selling second-hand clothes

You might decide to sell second-hand clothes - either as well as or instead of new ones. Local authorities in Scotland require second-hand dealers to obtain a licence or registration to operate. This applies unless dealing in second-hand goods is only incidental to the main business activity. Elsewhere in the UK, some local authorities license or register businesses (with certain specific exemptions) where second-hand dealing is the main or a significant part of the business and is not just incidental. If you are in any doubt as to whether second-hand dealer licensing may apply to your business, contact your local authority trading standards department for guidance.

Retailing

There is a wide range of legislation that applies to retail outlets and that protects the interests of the consumer. For example, goods and services must not be misleadingly described and the retail price of goods must be clearly displayed. You will be responsible for making sure that all goods or services are fit for their intended purpose and of satisfactory quality. Textiles must be properly labelled to indicate the fibre content.

More information about various aspects of consumer protection and fair trading legislation and textile labelling is available on the Trading Standards Business Companion website.

Trading online

If you sell goods online - including on eBay - then there's special legislation that applies to your business. It covers matters like the information you must give on your website, distance selling and email privacy. There's detailed guidance on your legal obligations to consumers, and on the requirements when selling online, on the Business Companion website.

Carrier bag charge

A 5 pence charge applies in England, but small and medium-sized businesses (with fewer than 250 full-time equivalent employees) are exempt. You can get detailed guidance from the gov.uk website.

Retailers in Wales and Scotland must charge customers at least 5 pence if they supply them with a single-use carrier bag. This applies to all types of single-use bag, whether they are made of plastic, paper or plant-based starch. There is detailed guidance on the Gov.Wales and Zero Waste Scotland websites.

In Northern Ireland retailers must charge customers a 5 pence levy on all bags with a retail price of less than 20 pence (including any bags that would otherwise be free of charge), whether they are single-use or reusable.

Health & Safety, fire

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include recruitment, employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, redundancies and employment tribunals.

Insurance for a clothes shop

Contact an insurer or insurance broker and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what insurance cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider. This might include:

  • employer's liability
  • public liability
  • product liability
  • premises, premises contents and stock
  • goods in transit (for example on the way back from a supplier)
  • cash
  • business interruption
  • motor insurance (for delivery vehicles)

It is worth noting that some trade associations and buying groups offer their members special insurance policies, which might save you money and provide the level of cover you need.

When comparing insurance quotes, uncover the differences between policies by using an insurance comparison form.

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