As we enter the busiest time of the year in retail, we know many retailers will work from open to close, and then burn the midnight oil after that. Managing inventories, coordinating employee schedules, and handling customers who could play leading roles in The Grinch can all take a serious toll.
We are sure you all know the basics of personal self-care - after all, you probably stock the perfect array of products for it in your store. But mental health goes beyond a soothing bath and your favorite lotion - although taking time for those can certainly help.
With that in mind, here are five mental health tips geared especially for independent retail store owners and managers that we've gathered from conversations with retailers directly.
Find "Retailer Friends"
Running a retail store is a big job - and not something that your spouse or friends might really understand. Finding yourself a "retail friend" who actually knows what you are facing can be a huge boost to your mental health. The ability to talk shop, get feedback and advice, brainstorm, or even to just vent for a minute on those really tough days, will help not only you but also your non-work relationships.
Not sure where to start? Try asking your Sales Rep for their recommendation on another retailer outside of your area who would be a good fit with you - they will know who has similar situations but isn't a competitor. Once you find one or two, make a point of connecting regularly - regular zoom calls, lunch meetings, or even store tour days can be a great way to connect and relate.
Set a "Do Not Disturb" time
Start small with just an hour or two if this seems daunting - but establishing a set time each week where your entire staff knows not to contact you, and you intentionally stay out of your email and out of the store, can do wonders for your mind. Take this time to do something entirely unrelated to the store - take a walk, take a nap, read a book, call an old friend, whatever you want - just clear your mind for this time. Over time - and maybe after the holidays and January markets are past - expand this to be a half day or even a full day each week. Trust your staff to handle it - and you will be a better employer for it.
Outsource tasks such as Payroll, HR, or Finances
These days, service providers abound. Hate managing your payroll? Outsource it. Love running your store, but keeping your accounts in order give you nightmares? Hire someone. Knowing that a service provider that is familiar with the intimate details of the tasks - and the laws around that topic - can easily be an investment that pays off big time for you. Not only in relieving your stress, but also freeing you up to do the things you really want to do in your store.
Not sure where to start? While Google can be helpful place to start, try talking with other small business owners to see what services have worked for them.
We are all guilty of thinking we can do it, and a retail store is a prime environment to try to multi-task in - but science says you actually lose time and take longer to complete individual tasks when you shift focus back and forth constantly. Similar to the "do not disturb" time block in tip #2, try batching some of your work. Need to focus on invoices or inventory, or building a new display? Set your phone face-down with the ringer off, close a door if you can, and get to work on a single task, all the way to completion.
Create an "All the Things I Do" list
We know you've got your phone on you, so use a notes app to keep a list for a week of everything you do for your store. Once the week is up, sit down and review the list. What items can you identify that can be entrusted to a key employee and positioned as a growth opportunity for them? You might also find one or two that simply don't need to happen anymore. Be a little ruthless if you need to - what did you start doing once upon a time, that really doesn't need to be done by you specifically, or done at all anymore due to changes in technology or personnel?
If the idea of prioritizing your own mental health feels overwhelming - then that's probably your sign that you need to do it. Start small and pick just one thing from the list above to start with, and take your first step towards protecting yourself right now. You are worth it.