Marks & Spencer is promoting its extended returns policy as retail’s golden quarter kicks off in unsettled trading conditions.

Highlighting the longer returns period forms part of efforts by M&S to emphasise that consumers can “shop with confidence”. 

It comes as new coronavirus restrictions are imposed in swathes of the UK, including Scotland and parts of the North of England. 

M&S’ standard returns period is 35 days. But from last weekend, up to and including December 6, receipts will be printed with a deadline of January 10. 

M&S offers extended returns every Christmas but is specifically highlighting the policy this year so “customers can shop early without needing to worry”. The policy applies to products bought in-store or online.

This year’s golden quarter is unlikely to be unlike any other in living memory as the effects of the pandemic play out. Many retailers anticipate that shoppers may buy early, amid concerns about a further winter spread of the virus and possible lockdown, and fear of job losses.

Research for M&S’ Food Christmas Trends report found that 15% of people expected to stock up earlier than usual this year; 28% anticipated more, smaller Christmas celebrations.

Three in 10 expected to order more food and gifts online. Retailers generally expect more online shopping, following rapid growth at the height of the pandemic and that may also stimulate early spending as consumers seek to avoid any last-minute shortage of delivery slots.

The online spending spree is likely to get underway next week when Amazon holds its Prime Day bonanza on October 13-14, followed by Black Friday on November 27.