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The Wall Street Journal had a good piece about Satish Malhotra, CEO of The Container Store, in which the self-confessed former hoarder (who previously was chief retail officer and COO at Sephora) talks about how his new company changed his life - and hopes to change those of its customers.

Early on in his tenure at The Container Store, Malhotra says, "quite a significant amount of staffing was doing operational tasks, stocking, replenishment. That’s important, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of being able to be there for customers. So we optimized the way that we were doing replenishment, doing time studies, finding operational efficiencies.

"We took that labor we saved and put it all back on the selling floor.

"Now we can take the time to have a conversation, understand your lifestyle. Maybe you come in for storage-lid organization, but I’m actually having a conversation with you about baking. Our basket [the average value of a customer’s shopping cart] saw a double-digit increase."

He goes on:  "If you come into a Container Store, maybe you’re new to organization. We have to be able to break it down for you, narrow down choices so you don’t have cognitive meltdown. You have to really take the time to understand what a customer is looking for, or it doesn’t take."

KC's View:

To me, these comments represent what is missing from many food stores.  Too few retailers put an emphasis on empowering employees to have a conversation with customers, addressing the issue of massive choice in a way that creates both simplicity and opportunities.

And, like at The Container Store, this can be an investment that builds sales and profits.  It isn't just a cost.