For some companies, employees are their most important asset, because they can communicate the brand to customers. But for many retailers, employee turnover rates reach nearly 100 percent. The Container Store therefore takes a different approach to hiring employees.

To recruit employees, The Container Store searches for customers who are passionate about organizing, then puts them through a rigorous interview process. Even for short-term positions, such as seasonal employees for Christmas, spring cleaning, or back-to-school periods, associates undergo group interviews and then a 90-minute, face-to-face interview. They also train by reenacting typical customer interactions.

In response to these efforts, employee turnover at The Container Store is only 10–15 percent annually for its 46 stores and 3,500 employees. Some part-time employees have worked there for 15 years. As the economy gets tougher, The Container Store also refuses to make changes that are common to other retailers, such as staffing fewer employees, cutting back on training, or increasing the amount of commission-based compensation.

Employees are a very important part of the brand for The Container Store, whose products help customers organize their lives. These products also demand a premium price. By hiring employees who can explain the utility and functions of the products, the retailer enhances sales and creates loyal, repeat customers. Customers know that they can go into The Container Store with an organization problem and come out with a solution that the employees have created.

Discussion Questions:

1. Why does The Container Store value its employees so much?

2. Are there any downsides to such an employee-centered approach?

Gene Detroyer, “The Container Store: The Employee as an ‘Extension of the Brand’,” Retail Wire, March 20, 2009.