Kip Tindell, who co-founded The Container Store 40 years ago, and his wife, Sharon Tindell, who has also served on the retailer's board and in its executive ranks, are retiring in August, according to an email from the company to Retail Dive.
Kip Tendell's tenure as chairman of the board and Sharon Tindell's as president end in August, and they won't run for reelection, according to the announcement. Melissa Reiff, who took over the chief executive spot from Kip in 2016, will step into both board roles, while EVP of Merchandising and Planning John Gehre will take over Sharon's role as chief merchandising officer, the company said.
The retailer has been buffeted by the prospect of import tariffs amid a turnaround that appears to need more time than analysts expected.
Kip Tindell made waves in retail with his 2014 book, "Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built A Business Where Everyone Thrives," in which he argued that compensating employees well ultimately benefits a retailer.
Indeed, The Container Store was historically among the best-paying retailers in the market. Although, as sales fell in the years after the Great Recession, the company froze its hourly wages in 2016 amid an operational revamp, before lifting them again the following September.
For the past few years, it's been up to Reiff to lead a transformation of the business that includes new store concepts and a shift to services like custom closet design. In a statement emailed to Retail Dive, Reiff called the Tindells' retirement "exciting, yet bittersweet news."
"Kip and Sharon Tindell, who have helped build our great company since its founding in 1978, will be retiring in August of this year becoming Chairman Emeritus and President Emeritus respectively," she said. "We, The Container Store, celebrated our 40th anniversary last July, and Kip and Sharon have been here every step of the way. As my dear friends and colleagues, I'm thrilled for them to be able to spend more time together and move to the next chapter of their lives. Thank you, Kip and Sharon, for building an incredible and sustainable company, and for your love and generosity."
In addition to working out ways to boost sales, the company more recently has also had to reconsider its sourcing in light of Trump-era tariffs levied on Chinese imports. Reiff late last year laid out the scope of the issue, saying 37% of the retailer's products last year came from China, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. Current tariffs would have hit 12% of the company's total 2017 purchases from vendors, she said.
But the company may also be benefiting from a Japanese import of sorts — the decluttering method promoted by Japanese organization guru Marie Kondo. Since Kondo's Netflix series debuted earlier this month, The Container Store has reportedly seen a surge in traffic, although it remains to be seen how much. As merchandising chief in 2015 Sharon Tindell endorsed Kondo's just-released book, but added an admonition not to toss everything.
"As I read the book, I found some humor in [Kondo's] obsessiveness. She should be one of our best customers!," she wrote. "One realization I had as I was reading, was that Americans think differently about their possessions. We become attached and energized by variety and choices. We can and will be inspired by her book, but putting her plan into action is challenging and impossible for most."