The Container Store’s Executive Vice President of Stores & Services made the 11th annual list of the leading female executives in retail
Recently, the Women in Retail Leadership Circle presented its annual list of the top women executives in the retail industry. The women on the list were chosen by circle members, partners, and industry insiders, and we were absolutely delighted–but not at all surprised–when our very own Eva Gordon was among them!
Eva began her journey at The Container Store in 2006 after a long and successful retail career that included a decade spent as Vice President of Stores at Harold’s Stores, Inc. Now, as our Executive Vice President of Stores & Services, she serves as the incredible guiding light to 94 stores across the country, as well as to our training, operations, In-Home Design and Organizing Services, and Customer Solutions teams. “When I think back to March of 2020, I cannot imagine a better leader to help get us through something none of us ever imagined,” says Chris Rolf, our Customer Solutions Director. “Eva’s strength, vision for the future, and just plain caring doesn’t go unnoticed – it’s so appreciated!”
Get to know Eva and get inspired by her interview with Women in Retail below.
What do you love most about the retail industry?
There’s nothing like being in a store full of customers! The energy is contagious. At The Container Store, we call it Air of Excitement: the buzz you get from employees’ passion for helping customers find the perfect solution and customers’ delight at discovering new things. There’s a product demonstration to your left, and a custom closet designer presenting a design to a client to your right. If you’re ever having a blah day, go visit a store!
What has been the biggest professional challenge you’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how did you solve it?
Ensuring that all our employees felt safe, secure, and heard, especially during the chaotic early days. The answer was communication, communication, communication. We sent our weekly update memos and created an employee COVID hub on our intranet. We kept everyone constantly updated on the latest guidance in their locales. We also extended leave of absence periods, created safe celebrations and a special dress code (lots of carry-outs in the summer heat), and gave all employees appreciation bonuses on three different occasions. We also surveyed employees to ensure we understood their comfort level with our health and safety protocols, and our plans for operating as circumstance evolved.
Given what we’ve experienced this year, what are the skills that you believe are critical to being an effective leader going forward?
Empathy and listening to understand remain as important as ever, but the pandemic clearly demonstrated that being nimble, creative in the face of obstacles, and generating ideas from front-line employees are game changers. The best ideas for continuing to thrive as a business came from our employees. As a company, we took risks, tried new things, and had a “whatever it takes” attitude. I’m so proud of how we united more closely than ever to weather the challenges.
What was a key obstacle you faced early in your career, and how did you overcome it?
As a young leader, gaining credibility and finding a voice in my role with colleagues who had more tenure and didn’t always see store leadership as a strategic partner. Therefore, I continually looked to add value to the business and our initiatives, sought to understand their priorities and concerns so I could be supportive and, most importantly, lead an impeccable stores organization that delivered consistent results. As they say, nothing succeeds like success!
Can you talk about a time in your career when you took a risk and it paid off?
When the pandemic started, our first reaction was to close stores. But we wanted to keep our employees working and our stores productive, so we quickly developed a virtual sales and design program, shifted online order fulfillment to store curbside delivery, and implemented socially-distanced appointment selling. We didn’t know if these strategies would pay off, but they did keep us going strong during the worst period.
What steps did you take to develop yourself as an executive?
I work as closely as possible with my colleagues and leaders. Everyone has their superpower. Understanding how I can adapt to some of the strengths I admire into my own style has been helpful. It also helped me understand how to fully be myself and leverage my own strengths to be the best leader I can be. I’ve worked to be as well-rounded as possible. Every area of the business matters, and stores are the hub of the wheel. I strive to be able to speak and contribute to all our results, strategies, and initiatives, whatever area of the business.
What traits, skills, and experience do you look for when hiring a team member?
- A win-win mentality – Someone who understands customers, vendors, employees, and shareholders can all win together.
- Curiosity – Someone who asks questions and is genuinely interested in learning.
- Strong communication skills – You can’t be an effective leader if you can’t motivate and energize the team, clearly articulate priorities, and personalize your approach to work well with all different kinds of people.
- A love of retail – Energized and engaged with customer and employee interaction.
- Continuous improvement – Never satisfied, always anxious to move on to the next opportunity to be a better leader and a better company.
There has been a global mass exodus of women leaving the workforce as a result of COVID-19. What do you think companies should do to retain and attract more women talent?
The U.S. lags in supporting working women, especially working mothers. Without diversity of thought, in all its forms, we lose out on valuable contributions. Addressing childcare, elder care, and all the caregiving and emotional labor that women shoulder should be a priority for each company to address in the ways most meaningful to their employees.
How do you recharge?
I garden. It has some of my favorite things: physical exertion, immediate results, and I can’t look at my phone while I’m doing it! (laughs)
Congratulations to Eva on this well-deserved recognition. We’re so glad you’re a part of The Container Store!