How can retailers cope with anxiety about the future?

Photo: Getty Images/FG Trade
Jul 22, 2020

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from The Retail Doctor’s blog.

Completely rearranging daily routines and continually adapting amid significant uncertainty can take a huge toll on the spirits of store owners and managers.

I asked my Facebook fans how they were dealing with stress and what advice they have for anxious retailers about managing anxiety. Their suggestions helped me compile this list.

  1. Be extra gentle with yourself, emotionally and mentally. It is easy to fall into the trap that tells you you’re not doing enough, causing you to feel even more anxious. Shutting down helps no one. 
  2. Find the opportunity, not the fear. Keep your goal in front of you to get through this and be a better business. 
  3. Stop comparisons. Your four walls are all that really can be controlled.
  4. Look at your weak spots. Even with coronavirus anxiety there are lots of opportunities to grab onto. 
  5. Make a new to-do list at closing. By making it the last thing you do at work, it allows your mind to prepare for the next day. You are training your brain to look forward to possibility.
  6. Call your customers. A simple “How are you?” personal phone call connects you and can make someone else’s day. It can lift both of you up and deepen your bond. If you’re stressed, imagine how your customers feel. 
  7. Start a daily gratitude list. Each day will bring something new to add to it, and when you feel stressed you can balance your fears with things that you found meaningful. 
  8. Do something positive for your community. Every time you do something to help others, it comes back to help you too and leaves you feeling more positive. 
  9. Find or inject humor whenever possible. Making someone laugh can help ease stress for both of you, as long as it isn’t at someone else’s expense.   
  10. They’ll be back. To quote Hamilton’s King George, “You’ll be back.” You know your customers will. You may have to remind yourself of that fact when traffic is down and shoppers are still cautious.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What suggestions would you have for chain executives on down to store owners on how to manage anxiety amid the pandemic? What’s unique about the stresses caused by the COVID-19 crisis?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Experiment, observe, measure, and adjust. Staying mentally busy this way will help your customers and your anxiety."
"I would also recommend making a point of engaging with employees and recognizing their concerns."
"Fear of the unknown can kill a company. Take time to breathe."

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "How can retailers cope with anxiety about the future?"

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Richard Hernandez
Richard Hernandez
Director, Main Street Markets
11 months 1 hour ago

The status quo will no longer suffice. All of the above recommendations are spot on. I would add that retailers need to be proactive and think outside the box when dealing with issues that would never really have come up in pre-pandemic operations of stores. There is always a way to get it done — the solution may be unconventional, but if it is a necessity to run your business, so be it.

Ralph Jacobson

Great suggestions in this article. This is one area that many of us may not be focused upon during these crazy times. Let’s see what aspects of the pandemic will endure beyond the disease itself.

Jeff Weidauer

We are all struggling with the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the lack of control we feel. These are good tips to help get through this time. I would also recommend making a point of engaging with employees and recognizing their concerns.

Brian Cluster

Two of the easiest ways to reduce and better manage anxiety in uncertain times is exercise and learning skills for a stronger emotional/mental mindset. While these two things may be hard to do in the store setting, due to customer needs and the needs of the business, the off-hours investment in these things can certainly help staff and store management during business times.

One idea is to start a virtual exercise club where you as a store manager or chain executive strive to reach fitness goals individually or as a group. This can be rewarding and in a team setting, it can create some bonds outside of work hours.

The second idea is to provide your employees with mindfulness or calming app. These apps provide stretching activities, music, yoga classes, bedtime stories, and meditation and any or all of these activities may benefit many store employees. Both of these have been provided by my employer via our insurance provider and I and many of my co-workers have enrolled and benefited.

Georganne Bender

This is all good advice. As a speaker, I remind myself daily that my company didn’t cause this, and to have patience to see it through.

My partner Rich and I stay close to clients and to retailers, offering help and support where we can. We laugh a lot, even over Zoom from our own bubbles. Patience and foresight are important; what can we do that’s new, different and relevant? Fear of the unknown can kill a company. Take time to breathe.

Dave Bruno

I would add one more thing to Bob’s list: explore new (safe) ways to make your stores relevant to your customers. Distract your brain from the anxiety by investing mental energy in productive solutions that help allay some of those anxieties. There are many ways to improve the store experience within this pandemic, including optimizing new fulfillment models. Experiment, observe, measure, and adjust. Staying mentally busy this way will help your customers and your anxiety.

Ricardo Belmar
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
11 months 11 minutes ago

The most important advice here is to seek out new opportunities vs succumbing to fear. This is the time for retailers of any size to innovate, re-invent, and re-evaluate your customer experience. The moment you assume the outcome will be dreadful is the moment you have succumbed to the fear and lost all hope. Seek out those opportunities with your customer as the focus and hope will rise again. The point is, if you stand by and do nothing, or decide to “wait it out” then you won’t be on the winning end of the outcome. Bob makes a number of excellent suggestions in this article!

Chuck Ehredt
11 months 9 minutes ago

Most people and businesses dealing with anxiety can benefit from taking a longer-term perspective. Virtually all of us are going to get through this and if we deliver real value to customers, our companies will survive. Looking out to the horizon allows people to see opportunities and release their short-term stress.

This perspective can also be shared with customers. Let them know how you are taking care of them in the short-term, but also share some vision for how you intend to take care of them in the longer-term. People (customers) like to feel that someone has got their back — independent of shopping frequency.

Of course, if you don’t have a loyalty program, it will be hard to have the tools to communicate directly to customers that may not be in your store as frequently, let alone on a personal level, so also be thinking about how the membership scheme can enable new touchpoints and methods of communication.

Carlos Arambula

Constantly communicate to your employees and your customers. Share what steps are being taken to protect employees and customers, and tell them it will continually be improved as learnings are gathered.

Don’t deviate from the posted notices, e-mails or any other communication. Transfer and adapt best in class service philosophies to the current environment.

Acknowledge the unprecedented situation and evolve continuously.

Brad Eckhart

Make sure that your priorities are well articulated to your team. Taking care of your team and keeping them motivated and focused during this time of crisis is a huge challenge, but will go a long way toward reducing anxiety. Make sure that you protect your talent and manage any unfortunate lay-off or furlough situations with compassion and integrity.

"Experiment, observe, measure, and adjust. Staying mentally busy this way will help your customers and your anxiety."
"I would also recommend making a point of engaging with employees and recognizing their concerns."
"Fear of the unknown can kill a company. Take time to breathe."

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