You’ve been returning your unwanted Christmas presents all wrong – how to avoid a festive disaster


IF you’ve got unwanted Christmas gifts, then you may want to return them for something else to avoid the money going to waste.

It might be that the item of clothing your aunt bought you was a few sizes too big, or that the gadget bought by your colleague just isn’t something you’re going to ever use – we’ve all been there. 

Make sure you know your rights before returning Christmas gifts

While there are rules on returning unwanted gifts, especially if they’re not faulty, luckily, many stores extend the return deadlines over the festive period.

This means that shoppers won’t have to return items 30 days from the exact date of purchase – which could be any time before December 25 if the buyer was early with their Christmas shopping.

While this is good news, there are rules around returning items and you’re not guaranteed a full refund if you return unwanted presents.

It’s important to know what to do, and what not to do, and of course rules differ depending on whether the item is damaged.

What not to do when returning unwanted presents

Of course, there are do’s and don’t when returning unwanted gifts – here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t go without the receipt or proof of purchase. This could mean an awkward chat with the buyer so choose your words wisely.
  • Don’t throw away the original packaging. Even if you’ve removed the item from the packaging, it’s always worth taking it along.
  • Don’t use the item before returning it. This goes without saying but products like make-up and underwear cannot be returned if they’ve been opened and used.
  • Don’t go without checking the store’s policy. Company return policies differ so make sure you know what they offer.
  • Don’t wait until the final hour to return it. While it shouldn’t matter, it’s probably best to return your item as soon as possible, rather than right before the returns window closes.

What are my return rights?

Under usual refund policies, where you have the receipt, most retailers will offer you a full refund in the same way it was paid for, whether it was by card or cash.

Where you’ve got a gift receipt, you’ll usually be offered a gift card.

If returns are made after the typical return period has ended, but before the retailer’s Christmas returns period ends (see dates below), gift cards or exchanges for something else are more common than refunds.

However, the exact policy will vary depending on the retailer.

Sometimes stores are more generous than the rules state so it’s always worth trying your luck.

You might have more of a chance if you physically go to a store, rather than trying online or over the phone.

It’s also important to note that whether you bought items online or in-store or in the sale may also have an impact on how you’re refunded.

Even during the festive period, while retailers legally have to provide a replacement, fix or refund for faulty goods, the same rules don’t apply for unwanted items.

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, shops only have to provide a refund for unwanted items if they’ve been purchased online and you’re making your claim from the time of ordering up to 14 days after receiving the goods.

You then have an additional 14 days from notifying the company to return the items.

Here, most items are covered with the exception of personalised goods, fresh items, and certain services, for example hotel bookings.

It’s always worth trying but don’t be too surprised if your return isn’t accepted.

Return dates vary from shop to shop, but here’s what some of the favourites are doing both online and in-store.

Here’s what your favourite stores are doing


Shoppers can return items bought any time from September 28.

They have until January 31.

House of Fraser

You’ll be able to return items bought from October 31 but you only have until January 8 to return them.

New look

Items purchased from October 31 but before December 9 can be returned by January 6.

John Lewis

Shoppers wanting to send their gifts back can return items bought from September 27.

They must be returned by January 28.


Shoppers can return items bought any time from September 28.

They have until January 31.

Marks & Spencer

You’ll be able to return items bought between October 13 and December 24.

You’ll have until January 28 to return them.


B&M’s Christmas returns policy allows customers who purchase items from October 1 to return them by January 31.

TK Maxx

Items bought for Christmas at TK Maxx must be returned by January 24.

You could sell the item if you have no luck returning it

If you can’t get a refund, exchange or credit note there could be opportunities to make a tidy profit out of selling your unwanted presents online.

How much money you make depends on the item, the quality of it and how much you’ve used it.

There are several options available including eBay, Facebook, Gumtree, Depop and Etsy.

We’ve got a full guide on how to resell unwanted gifts here.