Friday, February 16, 2018
Business

Container Store to open first Tampa Bay near International Plaza

TAMPA — Can a few boxes change someone's life? To fans of the Container Store, absolutely.

The chain devoted to boxes and other organizational stuff opens its first store in the Tampa Bay area Saturday across from International Plaza, at 4720 W Spruce St. Loyalists can barely contain themselves.

"Is it weird that my happy place is at the Container Store?" wrote one woman on Twitter last week.

For those who scratch their head at the very idea, the big deal isn't in what the store sells, but how people use the items to get organized and improve their lives. Kip Tindell, the chairman and CEO, likes to say the products don't save space — they create time to do the things you really want to do.

Shoppers buy in to the concept, wall hook, line and sinker. And they're willing to pay a premium.

Selling containers is big business. The privately held, Dallas-based company expects to hit $900 million in sales this fiscal year and $1 billion soon after. That's a stunning figure for a small chain of 58 stores that thinks inside the box.

For the uninitiated, here's how the store makes some customers giddy one laundry hamper, garbage can and shoe box at a time.

The elfa closet system

Each store has examples of different closet designs possible through elfa, its signature custom shelving system out of Sweden. Each plan is custom-designed for the buyer's home using various shelves, drawers, hanging rods and shoe racks to maximize space and efficiency. The store models have real clothes and shoes to demonstrate how things would look and work. The designs don't come cheap. A nonwalk-in closet costs upward of $1,000. A closet the size of a bedroom can exceed $6,000. Elfa designers will walk you through a plan or you can do it yourself online. The store recommends paying a few hundred dollars for the installation, but for someone handy with tools, the system is actually pretty simple to install.

Aha moments

The store thinks of things you don't. Walk through the aisles and you're sure to find new ways to organize your stuff. For all the sporting goods packing your garage, there's a wall hook for footballs, basketballs and golf clubs. For the curling iron that might burn your counter, there's a heat-resistant silicone holder that sticks to a sink. For the guy who steals your lunch from the fridge at work, there's a refrigerator locker with a combination lock. You might stop in for a pencil case, but you leave with things you never knew existed.

Charitable spirit

The Container Store partners with charities in communities where it does business, particularly ones involving women. Locally, it's the Junior League of Tampa, a well-respected women's volunteer group that helps children and families. The charity will receive 10 percent of grand opening sales Saturday and March 17. That's of overall sales, not just the profits, as is customary for many other companies. Clearly, the store is betting many of the Junior Leaguers will become loyal shoppers.

Boxes and then some

Of course, the store is mostly about boxes. But it's also about things relating to boxes. Like stickers you put on moving boxes that identify the content's room. Or bubble wrap and tape, things you put in and around boxes. Or gift wrap, a decoration for boxes. In fact, the store has an entire aisle devoted to wrapping paper, ribbon and bows. Dollar-store stuff this is not. A roll of premium wrap made from recycled cotton goes for $9.99.

Employee-first attitude

Workers are thrilled to find you a suitable sandwich holder because they're happy to work there — and getting well compensated for it. The store founded in 1978 is known for offering higher pay than most retailers and consistently appears in Fortune magazine's annual Best 100 Companies to Work For. Only about a third of employees work full time but those who do can make more than $50,000 a year, a significant amount in an industry known for paying minimum wage or slightly better. The store enjoys very low turnover, which means employees know what they're doing and can better serve customers.

Gadgets galore

The Container Store figures that people who get excited about bags that create more room in your bags (which they sell) will also love gadgets. The store has gobs of gadgets, from a dog's water dish that folds up and wraps around a leash to a plastic packaging cutter for those impossible-to-open toys. You don't think you need a cord to organize your cords until you see one.

Principled beliefs

The Container Store operates under seven "Foundation Principles'' adopted in 1988 when the Houston store opened — and did triple the business of any other location. They focus on good communication, selection, service, price and other qualities you might expect. Others show the store's more quirky side, like selling to the "man in the desert." Whether he's looking for a shoe box or a hamper, employees equate him to the man in the desert desperately looking for water. He must have it! Along the same lines, the store sells copies of Conscious Capitalism co-authored by John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. Mackey was college roommates with Tindell, the Container Store's chief organizer. Tindell sits on Whole Foods' board and supports the book's premise, which argues for the inherent good of both business and capitalism.

One-stop shopping

You know you're wasting time you'll never get back when you go to five stores looking for the perfect over-the-door hook for your gym clothes. Not so at the Container Store. The store has so many kinds of everything, it's hard not to find something to buy, which must be Point No. 1 on the company's business plan. Need push pins to organize your papers? The store doesn't have just clear or colored. It also has aluminum and wooden ones, and ones shaped like darts. Need a garbage can? It could come down to eeny, meeny, miny moe, just to get out of the store in a timely matter. For kicks, check out the touch-free can for $199 that opens and closes with one wave of the hand. Sanitation brilliance.

Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.

     
Comments
Trump administration recommends stiff penalties on steel, aluminum imports

Trump administration recommends stiff penalties on steel, aluminum imports

The Tampa arm of Brazilian steelmaker Gerdau S.A. was cautiously optimistic Friday after the Trump administration took a big step toward a policy Gerdau has been vocally advocating for — higher tariffs on imported steel. "We’re hopeful that President...
Published: 02/16/18
Facebook forges ahead with kids app despite expert criticism

Facebook forges ahead with kids app despite expert criticism

Associated PressNEW YORK — Facebook is forging ahead with its messaging app for kids, despite child experts who have pressed the company to shut it down and others who question Facebook’s financial support of some advisers who approved of the app. Me...
Published: 02/16/18
Inexpensive Tampa Bay homes gain the most value of any in U.S.

Inexpensive Tampa Bay homes gain the most value of any in U.S.

Owners of affordable homes in the Tampa Bay region are seeing the biggest gains in equity among the nation’s top 20 housing markets. A bay area home now worth $110,000 rose 20 percent in value over the past year while a house now worth $337,400 incr...
Published: 02/16/18
Amid CareerSource controversy, allegations of a love affair, big raises and family favoritism at the top

Amid CareerSource controversy, allegations of a love affair, big raises and family favoritism at the top

The anonymous letter described a possible love affair at the top of the local jobs center. President and CEO Edward Peachey was in a romantic relationship with top administrator Haley Loeun, it said.It described how Loeun was seen at a conference co...
Published: 02/16/18
Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s experimenting with takeout-only locations

Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s experimenting with takeout-only locations

Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill have become household names in casual dining. Now, their parent company, Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands is taking the "dining" part out in a concept that it’s bringing to Tampa Bay for the first time. A ne...
Published: 02/16/18
Which Tampa Bay ZIPs had the priciest, least expensive and most house sales in 2017?

Which Tampa Bay ZIPs had the priciest, least expensive and most house sales in 2017?

If you bought or sold a house in Tampa Bay last year, you were a player in one of Florida’s hottest real estate markets.Even though prices eased a bit from their torrid pace in 2016, the median cost of a single family home shot up 11 percent. That’s ...
Published: 02/16/18
Florida’s liquor license lottery can make you a ton of money. So why is it such a secret?

Florida’s liquor license lottery can make you a ton of money. So why is it such a secret?

Every year, millions of people play the Florida Lotto. Their chances of winning are about as great as those of being struck by a comet. Fewer than 12,000 enter a much lesser known lottery that also is run by the state. Yet the odds of winning are vas...
Published: 02/16/18
Travel insurance company brings tree houses, beer kegs and creativity to former church

Travel insurance company brings tree houses, beer kegs and creativity to former church

ST. PETERSBURG — Neither the Lutherans who first occupied the 4300 block of Central Avenue, nor the evangelical congregation that followed could ever have imagined tree houses sprouting in their church sanctuary.Yet that’s one of the plans of new own...
Published: 02/16/18
Prosecutors drop drug case against ConnectWise co-founder David Bellini

Prosecutors drop drug case against ConnectWise co-founder David Bellini

TAMPA — ConnectWise co-founder David Bellini won’t be prosecuted on a drug trafficking charge filed by Tampa police this week, the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office announced Thursday. The county’s top prosecutor instead applauded police for helpi...
Published: 02/15/18
Tropicana Field may be named for a Pepsi product, but it will now only serve Coke

Tropicana Field may be named for a Pepsi product, but it will now only serve Coke

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium may be named for PepsiCo’s Tropicana orange juice, but that’s not stopping the baseball team from switching its pouring rights to Coke.The Rays said Wednesday the ballpark would begin serving Coca-Cola pro...
Published: 02/15/18