No, you don’t necessarily need a license to sell clothes online in the United Kingdom. The clothing business is not a strictly regulated space in the United Kingdom and you won’t be expected to acquire a specific license to sell it (unless you are trading at a market, in which case you will need a market stall license).
Howbeit, you are expected to ensure your clothes comply with the Sale of Goods Act, the Supply of Goods and Services Act, and the Sale and Supply of Goods Act – which basically dictates that any products you sell must come exactly as you’ve described them.
It is the seller – not the manufacturer or supplier – who is tasked with ensuring these contracts are met, so always make sure your items are actually of the quality and design you are advertising before putting them up for sale. Other regulations to comply with are things like labeling (fabric content, country of origin, care instructions) and flammability, which should be provided by your fabric supplier or manufacturer.
Even if your clothes line is your side hustle, you are still expected to treat the business side of your operations seriously. You need to keep your books updated and open a business bank account; the up-front expenses of hiring an accountant will almost certainly pay off in the long run.
Also, you have to make sure that you are on top of your tax obligations – you need to register as a sole trader with HMRC (unless you decide to start a limited company or partnership). Also ensure to keep hold of all expense receipts to avoid a nasty surprise come self-assessment deadline day.
When you sell clothes online in the United Kingdom, you will also be affected by E-Commerce regulations. They came into action in 2002 and every commercial website is affected by them. Whether you have your own website, use eBay or Amazon, or even sell through a mobile phone or on digital television, the regulations will apply to you.
If you are selling under a company name, a registration number and VAT number should be provided. Prices are expected to also be clear, and no doubts should be cast. You should make sure your customer knows the final cost too, including tax and delivery.
Before customers make their order, sellers are mandated to define all the technical steps needed to complete the order, state whether the order will be filed by the service provider, and explain how to correct errors before placing an order. Terms and conditions should be downloadable so customers can store their own copy too.
Receipts are also expected to be acknowledged quickly but sellers are allowed to say that orders are being processed. The regulations also cover marketing techniques, so if you send customers emails or text messages to advertise products, you should make it very clear that it is a form of commercial communication and outline any conditions if you are sending them an offer or invitation to enter a competition.
All sellers indeed have to consider Consumer Protection Laws and E-Commerce Regulations. They are the only laws or regulations that should matter to an online clothes trader in the United Kingdom.
Tips to Remember When Selling Clothes Online in UK
When you are not meeting a customer face-to-face, certain rules apply to ensure your business transactions remain legal and your customer remains protected. Online selling tends to share the same laws as distance selling, with a few additional rules designed specifically for the web. Some tips to have in mind when selling clothes online include:
Follow the rules
First and foremost, it is very crucial that you make your business details visible and offer your customers a way to get in contact with you. If you have a VAT number, this should be given too. You should be easy to reach, and ideally offer customers more than one way to get in touch with you.
Ensure things are clear
The prices of your item, including taxes, are all expected to be made explicitly clear and customers should be made aware of the various ways in which they can pay for an item. Details about the delivery of the item should be given before the item is purchased, including the various options offered, the cost and an estimate of how long each delivery should take.
It shouldn’t be challenging for customers to change an order, and steps should be outlined by the seller to make this process easy. Note that this should benefit sellers too, if you provide a restriction on how much time customers have to amend an order and give direct steps on how to alter it, any confusion should be avoided. If you decide to allow cancellations, a guide on how to do this should also be offered.
Once you receive an order online, you should try to acknowledge the order and send an electronic receipt to your customer as fast as you can. If you accept returns, you will be expected to write a clear return and refund policy. Are you responsible for the cost of the return or is the customer? How many days do they have?
All these things should be included to avoid conflict. You can include all your details and policies along with any extra information in your terms and conditions document. Customers should be able to save a copy of this too, so make it downloadable.
There is much information out there about getting started as a seller online, especially in the UK. Even though it depends on how many items you are expecting to sell, and where you intend to send them to, additional research might be needed to ensure you are operating within the law.
Note that government’s website provides sellers with suitable advice concerning working for yourself, tax, registering for VAT and whether the income from your online sales will be taxable. Even thought is so easy to jump the legalities of online clothes selling and dive straight in, but if you are planning on doing the business on a regular basis, it is imperative to do some background research first.