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Legal issues facing the retail sector

Our experienced retail lawyers offer the full suite of legal services required by retailers including strategic advice on international expansion, whether through acquisition, own stores, concessions, franchising or other routes to market. And our retail team can guide you through all the other issues on which you need support, including, retail regulation, advertising and promotions, branding, competition, logistics, real estate portfolio management, labelling, health and safety, website trading and data privacy.

We can also provide retailers who operate in multiple jurisdictions a fully managed and controlled service across their territories to ensure that they have a properly structured system for external legal support.

Eversheds Sutherland is consistently top-ranked by Chambers (the independent guide to law firms) for its retail experience.

Advertising, sponsorship and promotions

Advertising, sponsorship and promotions

Maximising the value of your brand through compelling advertising is critical to most retailers. Our experienced international lawyers provide a full suite of services in this rapidly changing area, assisting clients to ensure their advertisements and promotions do not breach the increasingly complex legal and regulatory environment, and that sponsorship deals maximise brand value.

The digital environment is becoming increasingly prominent in hosting advertising, from online campaigns to smart phone marketing and the regulatory issues in this space are changing. Meanwhile, health, nutritional and environmental claims are subjected to intense scrutiny by both consumers and regulators. The London 2012 Olympics present a major opportunity for retailers who are sponsoring, or supplying to, the event, and a legal minefield for those who are not. We are advising a number of the major sponsors and suppliers and understand LOCOG's approach and what can be achieved.

We advise on all aspects of traditional and digital advertising and promotions. We have the capability to provide these services on a pan-European and international basis where required. In particular, we can help with:

  • drafting and negotiating agreements with advertising agencies and media buyers
  • advising on all legal issues affecting advertising campaigns, advising on strategy and providing fast copy clearance to ensure advertisements and packaging comply with the relevant advertising codes, regulations and case-law
  • advising on intellectual property rights relevant to advertising, including trade mark infringement, passing off and endorsement issues
  • compliance training
  • assisting clients in responding to Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Ofcom investigations, and bringing and defending legal proceedings relating to advertising campaigns.

Key contacts

Andrew Terry Andrew Terry
P: +44 207 919 4828





Branding, IP and trademarks

Branding, IP and trademarks

Brand value is at the heart of every retail business. With markets and opportunities becoming increasingly international in character, retailers now need to consider brand protection in multiple jurisdictions to ensure that they achieve a consistent brand image, and are able to enforce their rights, wherever they trade. The growth of online trading has also vastly altered the traditional strategies deployed by retailers to develop and promote their brands globally.

We understand this dynamic environment and the need for retailers to get clear, fast and cost-effective advice internationally on issues such as brand creation, registration, protection and infringement strategies.

Our intellectual property team works with a growing number of leading retailers worldwide in helping them to develop, promote and protect their brands. We advise brand owners on a wide variety of issues including trade mark and design disputes, co-existence arrangements, IP licensing and advertising regulation. We also have an international reputation in the field of online branding.

With a fully integrated trade mark and design filing service, Eversheds Sutherland provides a complete package for intellectual property and branding needs. The dedicated filing team has extensive experience of advising clients on the most effective trade mark filing and protection strategies globally, including trade mark and design registration, renewals, trade mark clearance, watching services and opposition proceedings. We have access to a wide network of agents worldwide who can provide a centralised service wherever you instruct us.

Key contacts

Andrew Terry Andrew Terry
P: +44 207 919 4828





Commercial contracts

Commercial and supply chain contracts and logistics, including shipping

Retailers are using ever more complex and far reaching arrangements for sourcing and distributing products. Supply chain management is key to the success of any retail business.

Our experienced international commercial contracts team has extensive experience of negotiating and drafting long term supply arrangements and standard terms and conditions of purchase and can help you to streamline your supply chain documents and processes, leading to enhanced control and a reduction in external legal costs.

We also have a proven track record of supporting clients on road logistics and other transport and warehousing contracts. Where a product is being purchased from overseas our specialist shipping and maritime law team can provide practical and legal advice on all aspects of international sale of goods (including INCOTERMS), documentary credits, transport contracts, related cargo insurance, guarantees. When cargo is lost, damaged or delayed, we can advise on the claims arising.

Key contacts

Andrew Terry Andrew Terry
P: +44 207 919 4828






International competition considerations

As the competition authorities take an increasingly joined up approach to competition law and consumer protection, the prospects of sector and market investigation for retailers continue to rise.

We have advised on a number of EU sectoral investigations and over half of the market investigations conducted by the UK Competition Commission over the past five years, developing strategic plans for handling the inquiries and making sure our clients are familiar with the issues, the way the regulators think and the procedures they adopt.

Through proactive training we can help you to feel confident that your buyers know where the line is crossed between legitimate and non-legitimate exchange of information, and so enable you to maintain competition compliance. In the event of 'system failure' we are able to bring our deep experience in competition investigations to the fore.

We have also advised a number of clients facing merger control or antitrust issues in China, where the legal landscape continues to evolve very rapidly.







Corporate and tax

Corporate and tax

Corporate work requires a commercial and pragmatic approach to get the best deal done on time and within budget. We deliver to our retail clients proven top quality workin all aspects of corporate, restructuring and taxation. Eversheds Sutherland's distinctive project management approach delivers greater certainty in costs, timetable and quality across our international network. In particular, timing of retail transactions may depend on third party consents (such as landlords) and it will be important to ensure that all necessary licences or regulatory approvals are identified and where necessary obtained and in place by completion for business as normal.

Through careful scoping and planning we give you control of the process. Energy is focused on the key commercial drivers on a project rather than peripheral niceties. You will know at all times what is going on and how much it will cost.

In retail transactions, there is often a strong property element and the structuring of a deal (eg whether to buy shares or assets) will have different and often conflicting tax consequences for a buyer and seller which need identification and negotiation at an early stage. Our tax team will deliver practical solutions and help secure maximum tax efficiency working, whenever appropriate, alongside other tax professionals.

In major transactions there will be competition issues and conditionality requirements to address which will have a significant impact on timetable and need consideration right at the start – our M&A lawyers liaise closely with our competition experts in the area of merger control. Being one of the largest M&A teams in Europe we are able to deliver to our clients a personal, partner-led service, in all the locations where they do business.

Key contacts

Aleen Gulvanessian Aleen Gulvanessian
P: +44 207 919 4828





Data protection and e-commerce

Data Protection and E-commerce

Knowing and communicating with your customers and staff has become ever more important to retailers and so as technology delivers new channels and opportunities to do so on a global scale we can work with you to identify and manage the associated compliance and trading risks and take the steps required to achieve the business objective without stepping on regulatory land mines.

Getting to grip with the rising tide of retail data protection laws across the world. In particular we advise on:

  • procedures, mechanisms and policies for collecting personal data from staff, customers, target customers and vendors
  • use of data for marketing purposes including behavioural advertising, e-mail marketing and social network interaction
  • collecting and using data in a single or multi-channel environment including stores, e-commerce, m-commerce, TV shopping and other media
  • cross border data transfer agreements and international customer or staff policies and notices
  • commercial programmes to generate other revenue streams from customer data such as affinity agreements or white label websites
  • structuring and delivering data protection compliance projects from “soup to nuts” nationally and internationally
  • responding to data security breaches and advising on investigations by and submissions to the data protection authorities and other regulators

Whether as a beach head into a new country or region or a supplemental channel, providing a unified e-commerce offering whilst having to contend with a maze of local laws and different languages can be challenging. The laws relating to cancellation and returns, supply of pricing and delivery information, and the ever more sophisticated advertising techniques and data capture being undertaken vary widely across different jurisdictions and local knowledge and experience is essential to ensure full compliance. Our e-commerce international team use a focused approach to understanding likely risks and we deal with issues pragmatically rather than theorise. We have helped many international retailers navigate these new waters across multiple jurisdictions so we can help you identify the mines ahead and steer a course through; whether that’s understanding what notices you need to provide, what cancellation periods apply or which countries laws to comply with.

Key contacts

Paula Barrett Paula Barrett
P: +44 207 919 4634





Dispute management and litigation

Commercial disputes and personal injury claims litigation

In the retail world, disputes need to be dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Eversheds uses RAPID Resolution, our unique approach to dispute management that is proven to give you the best possible outcome.

Our role is to support and assist retailers when under investigation and to facilitate the best possible outcome - in legal terms, commercially and from a public relations and brand protection perspective.

Areas we cover include:

  • loss of business claims following fire or water damage
  • claims against IT suppliers
  • supply problems
  • claims from suppliers disaffected by retendering, streamlining or re-pricing exercises
  • Personal injury claims from routine slips and trips  through claims involving disease or catastrophic injury.

We have over 25 years' experience of advising a wide range of retailers on employer's public and motor liability claims. Our team understands the particular nature of the claims you face and how best to protect both your brands and bottom line. We have a proven track record in reducing the overall cost and length of claims.

You can also receive proactive business support from anti-fraud experts protecting you from rogue claims, and data analysts who provide your health and safety, risk and fleet managers with intelligent management information to identify patterns and address claims 'hot spots'.

Key contacts

Paul Coppin Paul Coppin
P: +44 147 328 4567







Employment - Managing your workforce

We can help you respond to an ever-changing legal environment and give your managers the practical help and support they need. Our international team will allow you to get the best from your staff through high quality, accessible, prompt and practical support at the locations where you need it.

We can advise on the employment and pensions issues faced in emerging markets, as a business expands. We have advised a number of retailers on their DDA obligations, defended claims and trained staff to raise their awareness of such issues and minimise risks. Advice has also been provided on sensitive issues relating to time off rights (from flexible working to religious observance) and dress codes/issues. We balance competing rights and obligations with your business requirements and reputation needs.

We can also help you to find solutions to deal with issues relating to the mobility of key staff, international secondments and the local workforce, whilst ensuring that the relevant immigration consents and permissions are obtained and illegal employment prevented.

Retailers inevitably face legal challenges from their employees and we have a proven track record in successfully defending and resolving claims on behalf of clients.

Key contacts

Mark Fletcher Mark Fletcher
P: +44 115 943 7595







Retailers are under new challenges to reduce their impact on the environment. In addition to existing compliance requirements such as packaging waste (which many retailers now have to address on a multijurisdictional basis), increasingly retailers are having to focus on their energy consumption, as energy costs rise and landlords look to introduce “green lease” type provisions in leases.

Eversheds Sutherland's international team works with major retailers to help them develop and implement green strategies profitably and improve their green credentials. In addition we are working with a number of major retailers on waste solutions, such as biomass waste to energy plants, and advising on the use of land banks for renewable energy projects.

Areas in which we work with retailers include:

  • Producer responsibility (WEEE, batteries and packaging waste)
  • Energy performance of buildings
  • CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (including helping retailers to assess their responsibilities and comply in a cost effective way
  • Renewable and clean energy
  • Advice in relation to contaminated land
  • environmental risk by buyers, sellers and funders
  • in corporate and property transactions
  • environmental insurance.

Key contacts

Elizabeth Sheperd Elizabeth Sheperd
P: +44 161 831 8215







Franchising - expansion in the UK and internationally

Franchising has established itself as a proven tool for business growth and is now growing rapidly worldwide. We have around 40 experienced lawyers who can assist with all aspects of franchising and alternative forms of system expansion.

We can advise you at every stage, nationally or internationally, based on our knowledge and experience of the market. Our team can identify a network structure that suits you. We will assist in the acquisition or letting of your property portfolio and guide you through the local regulatory environments. We will work with you in relation to HR matters and support you with regard to product liability and brand and other IP protection issues.

Key contacts

Tom Bridgeford Tom Bridgford
P: +44 161 831 8231






Litigation, crisis management and product recall

Litigation, crisis management and product recall

Eversheds Sutherland has a leading team of lawyers ready to assist retailers in the event of any product safety crisis. We have extensive experience of handling product liability issues across Europe, the US and Asia, and we have the capability to manage global recalls and simultaneous notification of regulators across several jurisdictions.

The first 48 hours after any incident are crucial. Acting quickly can avoid an incident developing into a crisis. We aim to limit exposure, form an action plan and get the right team and strategy in place as quickly as possible, wherever you are in the world.

We are experienced in liaising with regulators; dealing with the PR aspects of any recall and helping to limit brand exposure; helping retailers to reassure customers; and managing any adverse publicity, including taking action in respect of potentially defamatory media reports. Once the immediate fallout has been dealt with, we can also advise on and assist you in recovering your financial losses from suppliers.

We strongly believe in anticipation and preparation for when the worst happens. To help you prepare, we offer retailers a full risk management service, including product recall and crisis strategy planning, product liability awareness training and advice on regulatory regimes at a product, sector or country–specific level.

We also have a team with contacts within authorities and considerable expertise in dealing with regulatory investigations and criminal prosecutions that arise from product failures.

Our range of clients is broad, including many multi-nationals and large retailers, selling specialist products and a wide range of consumer goods.

Key contacts

Richard Matthews Richard Matthews
P: +44 113 200 4372






Real Estate and real estate litigation

Real estate and real estate litigation

In the current business environment conflicting market forces have created a complex climate as retailers try to maximise the efficiency of their real estate portfolios in order to optimise returns and minimise costs and risk. When expanding internationally local legal support is needed to help negotiate the path to a successful opening without protracted negotiation.

Our international real estate group comprises a dedicated team of more than 160 retail real estate lawyers who are familiar with all aspects of the retail environment. They
know the high street, shopping centre and outlet market because they work for domestic and global retailers every day of the week.

We have wide experience in streamlining the acquisition process and will save you time and money when completing your transactions. Our management of existing portfolios focuses on driving down real estate costs and limiting liability.

Key contacts

James Batham James Batham
P: +44 161 831 8131





Retail compliance and enforcement

Retail compliance and enforcement

Retailers, and those that supply to retailers, face a myriad of regulations and legal requirements to ensure they are operating in a compliant environment with appropriate legal protection.  To advise clients on these challenges the retail compliance team at Eversheds Sutherland offers a cross-discipline international service that covers all aspects of multi-channel retail.  We provide a retail compliance helpline to assist businesses with quick queries requiring a swift response from one of our experienced lawyers.

Our practice covers:

  • Product safety and labelling requirements (food and GM), packaging, composition, weights & measures, flammability issues, CE marking and trading standards issues.
  • Marketing and advertising including promotions, prize draws and competitions, direct marketing, marketing consents, comparative advertising and all issues connected with the ASA and CAP codes.
  • Consumer protection regulations including pricing, misleading actions and omissions, aggressive commercial practices and consumer credit.
  • Health, Safety and Environment including fire safety, management and disposal of waste and WEEE and ROHS compliance.
  • Licensing and permits including off-licensing, petrol licensing and other operational permits.

We also advise client who are subject to investigation and enforcement action by local authorities and other regulators for breach of regulations.  This often includes advising on strategy and accompanying clients to interviews under caution and, if necessary, through the court process.  Our aim is to try and avoid matters proceeding to prosecution but where this is not possible we are concerned to minimise damage to brand and reputation.

Key contacts

James Batham James Batham
P: +44 161 831 8131





Contact us

James Batham, Head of Retail Sector