We’ve seen Toys R Us and Maplin call in the administrators, and other shops and restaurants are struggling too. Here’s how closures could effect you and your consumer rights.
It’s sad to see so many high street staples in trouble. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Yes, the wider economic downturn has an effect on how much cash we have to spend, which obviously is going to hit retailers. But I’m as guilty as the next man of going online to get the lowest prices which bricks and mortar shops just can’t compete with. And we’re seeing the consequences now.
Toys R Us and Maplin are very unlikely to find a last minute saviour, while Carpet Right, Mothercare, Moss Bros, House of Fraser, New Look, Homebase, H&M and Debenhams and many others have been in the news recently as they try to cut costs and debts, often by closing down some of their shops. Even John Lewis had profits fall by 77%.
Chain restaurants too are shutting their doors. Where I live we’ve just lost Byron and Jamie’s Italian, with rumours of our local Prezzo, Yo Sushi and Cau going in the not too distant future.
Of course it’s not just sad news for us as consumers. You’ve got to feel for the staff who are likely to lose their jobs. I popped into our local Maplin the day the “Closing Down” signs went up and I got some top service from some very friendly and knowledgeable workers. It’s a shame that their hard work won’t be rewarded.
But what does it all mean for you? Well, you could choose to spend money in those struggling shops and restaurants rather than online-only competitors. But since prices are often a lot higher, that might not be feasible for you.
More likely, you need to think about whether you could lose out in the uncertainty. I’ve a handful of main actions you need to take.
Compare prices before sale shopping
Often closing down sales can be bargain hunting heaven. I managed to furnish my first home for a fraction of the price as it coincided with Habitat doing under.
However you’ve got to be careful not to get caught up in the frenzy. You see, you might still be able to get the item you see cheaper elsewhere. This has been reported for Toys R Us in the last few weeks, and looking on Maplin I’ve spotted smart TV streaming boxes from NOW TVat higher prices than many other shops, even with a stock clearance discount.
There are some decent bargains out there though. I spotted the 4K Chromecast Ultra for £55 at Maplin – that’s the cheapest price I’ve ever seen it. So it’s certainly worth a look.
Also, check the terms of your purchase. It could well be all sales are final, so you can’t change your mind once you get home if you don’t like it, or it doesn’t fit.
Use a credit card for big purchases
Even if the shop isn’t closing down (or at least not yet), there’s always the risk it could go under. So always boost your consumer rights if you can.
One you really need to know is called Section 75. Under this rule, if you use your credit card on items costing more than £100 the credit card company is equally liable with the retailer if things go wrong.
So if you’ve bought a flight, a TV or a coat and the retailer goes under before you get the item, or if it breaks, you can claim the money back from the credit card company.
Check what you’ve already bought
If you’ve recently bought anything and not yet used it, check that it’s what you expected. Do those clothes fit? Does that blender work? You know what I mean.
If everything is fine, then you can relax. But if you want to return anything… well don’t delay. Return it ASAP and get your money back.
Spend or sell your gift vouchers
News that Mothercare is struggling too prompted me to hunt for £20 of gift vouchers I’d bought ages ago. They were meant as a gift for friends having a baby, but we forgot to take them with us when visiting – so we ended up buying another gift. And the vouchers have just sat there.
If Mothercare does go bust, those vouchers will likely be worthless. So I’ve posted them to my sister to buy something nice for my nephew.
You need to do the same. Check any gift cards or vouchers you’ve got, any store credit left online and so on. Ideally spend it now. Of course, not all shops are in trouble so there might not be any rush with those, but do Google for any recent business news concerning profit warnings or store closures – all signs things aren’t rosy.
If you don’t think there’s anything you want to spend, you could try selling them on Zeek. You do lose a bit of money doing this, but that might be better than buying something you don’t need. I’ve more info in my Zeek review, including my experience of selling a gift card on the website.
Watch my video for more on what to do with your gift cards