Last year’s event drew enthusiastic attendees too.

Spas know the importance of retailing, and we talk about it all the time, but it’s only when attending a conference like GlobalShop 2014 , held last week at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, that the realization hits that, for the most part, we could be striving for more.

Global Shop is a conference and trade show with around 12,000 attendees from 64 countries, including both small independent retailers as well as big chains such as Staples and Macy’s. The trade show portion features hundreds of exhibitors in sections devoted to Store Design & Operations, Store Fixturing, Visual Merchandising and Retail Marketing Services, among others. If you’re looking for an array of interesting flooring, wall covering, lighting or fixturing options for your spa, this is your venue. Both stock models and customized creations are available, as are more sustainable, earth-friendly options such as the carved textured wood panels and porcelain tile panels from Materials Inc—perfect for a reception or treatment room wall. LED-lit shelves are also growing in popularity, and while customized solutions don’t always make financial sense for spas, companies such as Tresco Lighting offer cheaper alternatives in the form of linear LED tracks that attach to the underside of existing shelving.

My favorite part of the event, however, is the conference sessions. Much like at a beauty show, these presentations are divided into tracks (consumer, international, store) and feature experts in the retail field, armed with data and studies to share on how consumers are shopping today. Their insights provide much-needed guidance to businesses as they plan for the next year.

This year’s conference keynote was delivered by Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store, and I found it particularly relevant to the spa industry. Tindell, who started the company in Dallas in 1978 with his wife, presides over a staff of 6,000 employees in 64 stores—that’s much larger than your average spa, but small in terms of major retail chains, which often have hundreds of locations. The Container Store has featured on Fortune Magazine’s “Best 100 Companies to Work For” list for the past 15 years in a row, and Tindell bases that success on what The Container Store calls its Foundation Principles™, which lie at the core of the company’s business model. Tindell’s thinking was that no matter how big the brand became, these principles would stay the same and allow all staff members to “respond in unison,” rather like what we strive for in the spa industry.

The Container Store’s Foundation Principles are:

1 Great Person = 3 Good People—The Container Store is very selective, often interviewing candidates eight or nine times, and being sure to delve into “values” issues during the process. Employees are paid 50-100% more than average, but Tindell says because they are so productive he doesn’t need as many, and that they provide extraordinary service.

Communication IS Leadership—They would rather overshare than have their staff feel like they are in the dark, and they consider that consistent, effective communication makes staff feel valued.

Fill the Other Guy’s Basket to the Brim—Tindell says business does not have to be a zero-sum game: The Container Store works to “craft mutually beneficial relationships with [our] vendors” so they are in business together.

The Best Selection, Service & Price—Note: not the cheapest! But, rather, the best combination of value for the consumer, to exceed the customer’s expectations so “she’ll tell all her friends how great it was!”

Intuition Does Not Come to an Unprepared Mind—This speaks to the training and education component. The Container Store’s full-time employees each receive an impressive 263 hours of training in their first year, or 150 if they’re part-time. That’s six and a half weeks of training, at a 40-hour week. To sell closet accessories. This kind of training ensures the staff is ready to solve any problem a client presents them with. When is the last time your spa provided that kind of training? And that’s taking into the account that, in the spa industry, we’re interacting with our consumers at a very personal level.

“Man in the Desert” Selling—This embodies The Container Store’s philosophy of looking at each consumer’s situation in a holistic way. As Tindell recounts, “The man in the desert doesn’t just need water, he needs sunscreen, boots, Gatorade, or to call his family.” That’s very similar to the approach we would like our therapists to take.

Air of Excitement—They want consumers to feel it within three steps of the door. They should immediately notice such things as clean, organized shelves, conversation-provoking products, bright lighting and good music. Shopping should be fun!

Tindell spoke in general of “conscious capitalism”, servant leadership and stakeholder orientation. He also addressed the “power of wake”: as he put it, you can’t take care of everyone unless you make money, and profits are not a bad word. And, in a funny coincidence, he was the college roommate of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods.

For further inspirational insight, check out The Container Store’s blog, What We Stand For.—Lisa Starr

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