There was an old Saturday Night Live skit about a mall store that just sold scotch tape. No boxes, no wrapping paper, just scotch tape and that was it. Except for a few misguided customers who were looking to buy something else, they didn’t have anyone else come into the store.
This wasn’t the case back in 1945 when a DuPont chemist named Earl Tupper came up with a new use for a new plastic called Polyethylene. The pliable, long-lasting polymer would be perfect for making storage containers. He started with a colorful bathroom drinking glass and soon went on to develop the famous “burping” bowls that provided an airtight seal that kept foods fresher, longer. He only had one product that came in a lot of different shapes and sizes, but he eventually sold an awful lot of it.
At first, he sold his plastic wonders, (I still have a Tupperware bowl that belonged to my mother that must be at least 40 years old, and it still works fine), only in retail stores. Then he noticed that some Stanley Home Products dealers were adding Tupperware to their in-home sales parties and they were selling really well. Tupper enlisted the help of one Brownie Wise. Wise was a former sales representative for Stanley Products who expanded and developed the home Tupperware party plan into an enormously successful venture. There was a Tupperware host in practically every neighborhood, and the parties became an important gathering event for women. Tupper was able to sell his company for some sixteen million in 1958 and retire. Today Tupperware is sold in over 100 different countries around the world.
Now it seems that the whole thing has come full circle. Your plastic container party has moved to the mall:
The Container Store is a national chain with some 38 stores at present that just sell containers. Well, they have some container-related products like those plastic storage units that hold everything from canned goods in the kitchen to surplus socks in the bedroom as well as office, travel, gift packaging, and laundry storage. Ok, they have a lot of stuff; some 10,000 products organized into some 14 different departments in their huge store. On March 3, they will open their first store in Missouri at Brentwood Square in St. Louis. The 24,000-square-foot store will occupy the space where the Organized Living store used to be.
The Container Store has been burping a lot of sales recently. With annual growth of between 15 and 20 percent, sales are expected to reach $500 million in 2006. Unlike in the fifties, the store targets upscale busy women who come from households with an average annual income of about $100,000. The store will also offer free space planning services and a selection of closet organizers too.
Although I could use a little organizing around my cluttered apartment, I think I’ll stick with the sole piece of Tupperware I inherited from my mom. Or, maybe I’ll throw a party. This is really similar to the story of the home mold testing and inspection services that you find these days. You get a professional service that you can use in order to get rid of all the molds that grow in your house or your office.