The Container Store Inc

The Container Store Inc. has added the biggest link so far in its chain, just in time for holiday shopping. The new store, in Rockville, Md., is the company’s second in the D.C. area. Because of its location, the company has high hopes for it.

Kip Tindell, president of the company, said he expects the new store, housed in a former supermarket, to become one of the chain’s top three in sales per square foot.

At 24,400 square feet, it is already the largest. Most stores average 18,000 to 20,000 square feet. The Container Store, based in Dallas, operates 13 stores.

As a store that specializes in containers, The Container Store is becoming known as a destination for gift wrap, Tindell said, and that makes Christmas an especially good time to open. The chain’s goal is to carry the largest selection anywhere, he said. A large space in the center of the Rockville store is stocked with wrap, bows, decorative boxes and other gift-packaging needs.

“It’s a really good market,” Tindell said of the Washington area, which has one of the most affluent and highly educated populations in the country.

Tindell said Washington consumers are unusually “sophisticated” and receptive to the Container Store concept.

The first Container Store in the Washington area opened at Tysons Corner, Va., two years ago. It generates the second-highest sales per square foot in the chain, falling behind only the company’s original store in the Houston Galleria, said Tindell. He said the chain’s average is $350 per square foot.

“At the grand opening of the Tysons Corner store, the shoppers knew immediately what the concept was,” said Sharon Tindell, vice president for merchan-dising who is also Kip Tindell’s wife. “There was no skepticism, like, ‘What are you trying to sell me?’ They embraced it.”

Rockville residents also appeared enthusiastic about the new neighborhood retailer. A preview party, held on a Thursday evening, attracted about 1,500 guests–more than twice as many as expected, a spokeswoman said.

Kip Tindell said December sales at Container Stores generally total slightly more than double the sales of an average month.

Most of the chain’s other locations, including the Tysons Corner store, will offer free gift-wrapping seminars to customers. The Rockville store will hold the seminars next year.

Another item for which the Container Store has high Christmastime hopes is a new line of home fragrance products–drawer liner, sachets and room spray–that have been in development for two years. The liner and sachets “are an integral part of storing clothes,” said Sharon Tindell, but most products on the market smell “grandmotherly,” she said.

After one week in the stores, “the reaction has been really great” to contemporary scents such as Timberline, Blue Waters, Cedar Spice and Evening Garden, she said. The line includes items such as four 18-by-24-inch sheets of drawer paper for $16 and a set of two sachet pillows, about 4 inches square, for $8.

The company is promoting these and other products in its 16-page Christmas catalog, which includes a wine rack with a moose or cow motif for $32.99; trivets shaped like a moose or cow for $22.99; sturdy cardboard boxes for storing Christmas tree ornaments and strings of lights; and seasonal boxes, tins and baskets.

The catalog has a mailing of 1.25 million, Kip Tindell said.

Immediately after the Rockville preview party, the Tindells were headed for Long Island to check out a possible location for their first New York-area store. “We’re also looking in Chicago, where we have one store, and we’re very eager to get into Los Angeles,” Kip Tindell said.

For now the Container Store has no plans to open more stores in the D.C. area, he said.

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