Kip Tindell, The Container Store
November 30, 2007
“Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim, then making money becomes an easy proposition.” Kip Tindell began shaping his philosophy toward business as a student at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas. And it was while he was in high school that he would begin shaping a flair for retailing that would later turn an industry on its ear.
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tindell’s family moved to Dallas when he was in the fifth grade. While still in high school, he took a job working in the paint department at Montgomery Ward in 1969. Not only did Tindell become a superstar salesperson, but he also forged a close friendship with Garrett Boone (Chairman Emeritus), his future business partner.
That friendship lasted through Tindell’s college years as an English major at The University of Texas, and at Storehouse, a chain of lifestyle furniture stores, in Austin in 1972. Tindell worked his way through college at Storehouse, where Boone was a regional manager. After college, Tindell authored a syndicated column on Southwest regional literature, featuring the state’s top fiction writers. At the same time, Tindell’s talent for retailing continued to thrive.
As the concept for The Container Store began to develop, the first challenge was to find products to sell. Tindell and Boone often had to persuade manufacturers to supply them with retail merchandise. Initially, almost all of the products that they wanted to sell were developed for commercial use only and were not available to consumers. But once manufacturers realized the prospect of a profitable consumer market for its products, they were eager to supply them. And many of those commercial products helped to clearly define the original concept – to sell multifunctional, storage and organization products that would save customers space and time.
The Container Store’s first location opened at Preston Road and Forest Lane in North Dallas on July 1, 1978. Mason’s tool bags as overnight bags, egg baskets as carryalls and wire leaf burners as toy barrels, were just a few of the original products Tindell and Boone merchandised in the 1,600 square foot space. The store outgrew its space within a year, and by 1980 had expanded twice. Eventually, the company’s first store would have to move across the street to find room for an ever-increasing inventory.
More than 29 years later, The Container Store has 40 stores across the country. Stores currently average 25,000 square feet. And, with 2007 fiscal year sales projected at an excess of $600 million, the originators of the storage and organization category of retailing remain the leaders in an industry that continues to thrive. Retail analysts cite the company’s devotion to the original concept as the formula for its success, noting that other retailers haven’t focused on an inventory mix solely devoted to storage and organization products like The Container Store.
But for Tindell, the goal never has been growth for growth’s sake. Rather, it is to adhere to a fundamental set of corporate values, centered around strict merchandising, superior customer service and intense employee commitment. Growth and success have been the natural and inevitable result.
Tindell continues to embody the unique corporate culture he created, which empowers employees to use their own intuition and creativity to solve problems – instead of referring to the proverbial procedural manual. Thus, he has nurtured a fierce loyalty to the company, which has an incredible number of career employees – who might never have dreamed of a career in retail. In fact, that culture has propelled The Container Store to the top of FORTUNE magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” eight years in a row. In 2006, along with wife Sharon Tindell (Chief Merchandising Officer) and Boone, Tindell was inducted into the Retailing Hall of Fame.
Tindell, 54, enjoys traveling with his wife, fly fishing, golf, and gardening. He is actively involved in the community as an Executive Board Member of the Circle Ten Council for the Boy Scouts of America, a member of the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving families in the Greater Dallas area, and the Save the Cathedral campaign, a restoration project for Dallas’ century-old Cathedral Guadalupe. Tindell also serves on the board at both Goodwill Industries and the National Retail Federation (NRF).
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