We know that as this issue drops through your letterbox you’re stressed about all of those orders and deliveries to ensure that you can keep your customers happy right up to Christmas. However we really do suggest that perhaps it won’t hurt if you find a quiet spot – maybe at the back of the storeroom – make yourself a nice cup of tea, and sit down for half an hour to catch up, and check-off those things that might get overlooked in the

seasonal rush.

It’s really just a couple of reminders of things that will be important over the next couple of weeks, during and after Christmas.

Chip and pin – if you’ve ensured that your plastic card equipment is compliant, and have signed all of the relevant agreements with your card acquirers, then relax, all you have to do is make sure that your staff are fully trained and know what to do with ‘difficult’ cards and ‘awkward’ customers. However, if you’re one of the many smaller retailers who’ve not yet achieved compliance, then you need to act now. The ‘liability shift’ takes place on January 1, and you need to know where you stand. Although the subject received a lot of publicity earlier this year, as the deadline approaches things seem to have gone fairly quiet on this front. So to confirm, from January 1, the liability for any fraudulent card transaction that could have been prevented by the proper use of chip and pin equipment at your site will pass to you if you’re not using the appropriate equipment. If, for whatever reason, you’ve still not sorted out your payment systems, then you need to speak to your card acquirer or bank immediately. You may end up deciding that you’ll restrict or even completely suspend card acceptance at your site from January 1, until you achieve compliance; it rather depends on how you assess the risk of becoming a victim of card fraud. Just remember that the petrol forecourt is the third largest scene of card fraud after food and drink outlets and electrical stores.

Tax – your self-assessment tax returns need to be filed with the Revenue by January 31, or you’ll be in for an automatic £100 penalty – plus interest. Your accountant or tax adviser usually needs to have various bits of up-to-date personal financial information from you as well as your trading accounts, in order to be able to complete your return on time. Unlike retailers, most accountants tend not to work much over Christmas and the New Year, so make sure that you’ve provided them with the information they need now, rather than late in January when they’re trying to catch up with the backlog!

Stock, cash and insurance – it’s a fact that for many petrol retailers, even those normally open 24/7, lack of customers, coupled with the cost and non-availability of staff, mean it can simply be uneconomic to open on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. But before you lock-up to enjoy a day off, make sure that you’ve the right insurance cover in place. Although your own financial year-end might be March or April, just check your insurance policies to make sure that they don’t end on December 31. If they do, have you already spoken to your broker about renewal? Remember as well that you may be carrying rather more stock than usual at these times – particularly tobacco and alcohol. Given that it can be quite difficult to bank cash around this time, you may also have a lot more of that to leave in the safe or take home with you. Just make sure that your insurance cover is sufficient for each of those situations, and that you comply with any special requirements that the insurance company may have in respect of each of them. If you’re in any doubt as to the level of insurance or any special conditions of cover, speak to your insurers now rather than on December 24 or 31. After all, the last thing you want to come back to, if you’re unlucky enough to return to a site that’s been burgled on the one day in the year that it’s not open, is the discovery that the insurance company won’t pay out because you were holding too many valuable items and/or they weren’t in the safe, and/or that your policy assumed that your site was manned 365 days a year.

Well, we hope that this little tea break has been useful and saves you some hassle in the coming weeks. In the meantime we’ll wish you Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

All data supplied by EKW group