Make us your home page
Instagram

Container Store: How a 'yummy' culture drives expansion

The Container Store comes to Tampa next month, bringing the world's largest selection of hangers, shoe boxes and trash cans.

If such a large assortment doesn't impress you, the store's bottom line will. With just 58 locations, the company expects to hit $900 million in sales this fiscal year and $1 billion soon after.

The privately held company opens Tampa Bay's first store March 16 in prime property across from upscale International Plaza. It's part of what chairman and CEO Kip Tindell calls the "Florida Trifecta." Orlando's first location opens April 27, followed by another in Boca Raton June 15.

Tampa's 25,000-square-foot store will carry 10,000 items, each designed to help customers get organized. More than 1,200 people applied for the 55 full- and part-time jobs.

In an interview from the company's headquarters outside Dallas, Tindell spoke about the store's "yummy" culture and how organizing a closet can change someone's life.

When your first store opened in 1978, some people doubted the concept of selling empty boxes would work. Why has it been so successful?

I think people who understand the store best realize that we're just not selling space or saving space. We're really selling time. If you are reasonably well-organized, then you can accomplish more in life. Being a bit more organized gives you a certain peace of mind and it saves you a lot of time. I think an organized approach to everything, from the way your pantry or closet is organized to the way you pack your luggage, just feels better.

Talk about the Container Store's extensive employee training.

The average retailer invests eight to nine hours of formal training for each first-year employee they hire. At the Container Store we do 263 hours. People join this company and never leave, so we can invest in them. The famous economist Milton Friedman said the only reason a corporation exists is to maximize the return of the shareholder. I'm like, well, no. We put the employee first and if you take care of the employee better than anyone else, she'll take care of the customer. If those two people are really ecstatic, then the shareholder will be happy, too.

The pay at the Container Store has been touted as being higher than most retailers. What is the hourly pay for the typical employee?

It varies, but companywide, a full-time salesperson makes right at $50,000 a year, which is not an enormous amount of money, but it's an enormous amount of money for a retail salesperson. We try to pay 50 to 100 percent over the industry average, particularly for those employees closest to the customers. That's part of being employee-first.

A 10 percent annual turnover rate is pretty remarkable in the industry. How are you able to achieve that?

It's part of the culture, the employee-first orientation. We work really hard trying to make sure everyone associated with the company thrives. If you talk to people who know the Container Store, they don't like the Container Store. They love the Container Store. It's a special, fun, quirky, yummy culture that's really fun to be a part of. It's an enjoyable place to work and shop.

You mention the word "yummy" a lot. How does a non-food store use that term?

The culture is just yummy. It's the opposite of yucky. It's a place where everyone wants to be and have fun. We think it's okay to have fun at work. Retail is hard but it doesn't have to be serious every moment.

In reading customer comments on your website, they say shopping at the Container Store is a life-changing experience. How can buying a box be life-changing?

We're trying to get what we call the customer dance. When we sell you a closet, we want you to be so excited when you see it that you do a little dance. It's relatively easy to get a dance for a closet or pantry. But we try to get that for something as pedestrian as a trash can. Even a trash can can make you smile. If you can get your customers to feel emotional about the goods and services you provide, you're going to dominate your niche. We're proud to say we created this niche but we also dominate it 35 years later.

I noticed that you were on the board for Whole Foods. How did that come about?

John Mackey, the co-founder and CEO, he's my old college roommate at the University of Texas. He was the most interesting kid when I was at school there, and he's probably still the most interesting man in Austin. He and I rarely agree on politics but we always agree on business philosophies. I admire him.

Your plans to open six stores a year for the next several years seems pretty aggressive given your history of gradual growth.

The new stores are doing amazingly well. Interestingly, we have only recently begun to open in smaller markets. We used to think our stores only performed well in Chicago, L.A., New York, Houston, Atlanta, only the biggest markets. What we've discovered is our stores do just as well in Indianapolis, Charlotte, Tampa and those sized markets. That opens up another 100 locations for us. It's been a real cool discovery. We like to say we're immature as a retailer. With only 59 stores, there's a lot of places we haven't gone yet.

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110.

If you go

When: The Container Store opens March 16.

Where: 4720 W Spruce St., across from International Plaza in Tampa. Prizes: Giveaways hourly, including a $1,000 Elfa space makeover.

Charity: Ten percent of March 16-17 weekend sales will go to the Junior League of Tampa.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

More info: Go to containerstore.com or call (813) 774-4060.

Container Store: How a 'yummy' culture drives expansion 02/18/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 18, 2013 11:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times

    Business

    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]