Let’s Talk About the Mess in Our Retail Stores

It’s a time of transition for retail shopkeepers. Some shops have reopened, while others are indefinitely closed. Some are even in-between, with appointment-only shopping, curbside pickup, or a transition to an online storefront. It’s an unusual time to be a business owner. 

How COVID Has Made Our Stores Messy

No matter what your shop’s current state is, chances are that the mess has started to pile up. This started with lockdowns and a curtailing of retail business. As a direct result of the pandemic, shopkeepers had to change their business models overnight. 

Even if you already had an online shop, it probably wasn’t your main form of business. That meant learning how to ship items, buying supplies, and organizing them all in your retail space—it was a lot to juggle!

Curbside pickup was its own herculean task. This is an additional source of mess for shop owners with supplies, scheduling, and organizing this new service.

You might have also pivoted to making or selling masks, craft kits, puzzles, or other in-demand items. Adding a new piece of inventory or packaging your inventory together in a new way means more mess in your store and more mental acrobatics. 

Next, you had to learn to communicate with your customers in new ways and on new platforms. Instead of popping into the store, they were popping into your DMs on Facebook, Instagram, the chat on your store’s page, your email inbox, and your voicemail. That digital clutter weighed on you, too. 

And finally, you might have had to learn how to show up for your customers on camera. Whether you were doing a clearance sale via Facebook live or showcasing items on IGTV, you probably had a massive amount of inventory taking up space in your store.

Why This Transition Led to so MUCH Mess

The truth is, many of us went from a brick-and-mortar retail space to a WAREHOUSE or shipping facility.

You had systems and processes in place for a brick-and-mortar store, not for an online store or the type of store you became. If you had never really sold online before this, things definitely got messy. 

Before, most shopkeepers had team members that helped. Sadly, they either had to be let go or laid off, and many shopkeepers had to shift to running their stores/businesses alone or with little help.

One Shopkeepers Lab member said her store was such a mess: “If someone broke into my shop, they would have to leave me a note that they had been there!”

Trust me, it happened to me too! I promise that I’m not judging you—messy was the best term for my store until recently, too. 

And then the fears kicked in. Fears like…

  • Will everyone use their gift cards at the same time?
  • Will I be able to afford to buy new inventory or resume my market orders?
  • Will they know I have the same inventory as before, and then I won’t be able to sell anything? 
  • Will I be able to protect my customers, myself, and my team members from getting sick?
  • What do I need to DO to protect all of us?
  • Why does my competitor seem to be doing so well, and I’m not? 

There are so many unknowns! 

What You Can Do Now

I know that the state of the world and of your shop is overwhelming. Here’s how you can move forward, one step at a time: 

Give Yourself a Pat on the Back

Most people can’t do what an entrepreneur does to begin with! It takes courage, LOTS of work, and grit. So for us to shift the way we did is commendable! Take a bow, treat yourself to something, and celebrate this win. Trust me, I know we aren’t out of the weeds yet! But one thing I’ve learned on this journey is that I MUST celebrate wins.

Give Yourself Some Grace

You just went through a bit of a storm. You really did. Your store may not look the way you want, you may not have accomplished as much as you had hoped you would, but give yourself some grace. No matter how much we think we can do it all, oftentimes we can’t—and that’s okay.

Create an Action Plan

Write a to-do list of everything you need to get done. Next, delegate what you can. If you start hiring team members back, delegate. If you have family members that can help, ASK FOR HELP. Oftentimes, shopkeepers are stubborn and overly independent, but this is a time where it’s more than okay to ask your loved ones for help. Your customers love you and most likely will give you more grace than you give yourself. We are our worst critics, after all.

Consider a Business Reset

This might have already crossed your mind. Some alarms may have gone off in your head about how you wanted to change things before but didn’t. You might be too much in the weeds right now to think about this, so move forward with steps 1-3 and revisit this when you can. Just keep this in the back of your mind so you can circle back to it soon. I’ll be chatting more about how to do a business reset in Episode 29 of the Savvy Shopkeeper Retail Podcast

Yes, your store might be messy right now. And yes, you don’t have everything figured out. I’m here to tell you: it’s okay. We are all trying our best, and that has to be enough right now. No one, and I mean no one, has experienced this before. We’re figuring it out as we go. I’m rooting for you. 

Resources We Mentioned


  • [1:37] Shopkeeper Shoutout to Regina Westgate of Country Heaven Home Decor & Gifts
  • [3:27] How our stores became so messy
  • [6:15] Why the pandemic led to so much mess in our stores
  • [9:31] Shopkeeper fears
  • [14:36] What you can do right now
  • [14:54] Give yourself a pat on the back
  • [15:42] Give yourself some grace
  • [16:03] Create an action plan
  • [16:32] Consider a business reset

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