retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal has the sad story of Tupperware, which for decades was a go-to brand for food containers but now has become virtually irrelevant, facing questions about whether its independent dealers-driven sales model - which centered on suburban Tupperware parties - can survive in an e-commerce world.

According to the story, "Revenue and profits have been sagging for years, leaving investors sour on the future of the company that has been selling food containers for 74 years … Overseas, Tupperware’s bets on markets like China and Brazil have left it exposed to choppy economic growth. In the U.S., it hasn’t been able to arrest a yearslong decline in the size of its sales force. The company’s efforts to draw in customers and sellers with new kitchen items, e-commerce investments and other initiatives haven’t taken root."

Like other direct sales brands - think Avon and Amway - "Tupperware faces questions about whether it can remain relevant as consumers migrate to shopping online and socializing has moved from living rooms to apps like Instagram," the Journal writes.

The story notes that the party has moved on without Tupperware:  "Consumers haven’t stopped buying reusable storage containers. U.S. shoppers were expected to buy $1.44 billion of food containers last year, according to estimates from consumer-research firm Euromonitor—an increase from $1.35 billion in 2014.

"But other companies, including Newell Brand Inc.’s Rubbermaid unit and Clorox Co. ’s Glad business, have staked out turf with their own storage offerings. Both brands are sold in stores and on websites like Amazon."

Less than five percent of Tupperware's sales come from sources outside its direct sales force.  "I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface,” says Christopher O’Leary, Tupperware’s interim CEO.

KC's View:

Gee, y'think?

Hate to be critical, but a statement as simultaneously dumb and obvious as that one ought to immediately disqualify this guy from losing the "interim" in his title.

Go on Amazon and type in "Tupperware," and it offers thousands of options - none of them, best I can tell, actually made by Tupperware.  So the first thing I'd do is create a strategy for getting on Amazon - maybe creating an online Tupperware store power by Amazon.  I'd have to make the argument to independent sellers that if we don't do this, the brand they are repping will be obsolete.

Next thing I'd do - try to get the brand into special sections in The Container Store, both online and in its bricks-and-mortar stores.  And if I'm on the Tupperware board - none of whom, except for the interim CEO, seems to be an experienced retailer - I'd look for someone aggressive to take the CEO job, who could shake things up quickly and accomplish this kind of change.  No excuses.

By the way .. the Tupperware story seems to be a good object lesson in how to ignore changing technology and evolving consumer habits and turn a revered brand into something that barely is on shoppers' radar.