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The NRF Foundation shapes retail’s future by building awareness of the industry through statistics and stories; developing talent through education, experiences and scholarships; and fostering career growth among people who work in retail.

The NRF Foundation shapes retail’s future by building awareness of the industry through statistics and stories; developing talent through education, experiences and scholarships; and fostering career growth among people who work in retail.

Dream BIG Class of 2014

Althea Kearney

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Althea Kearney

Althea Kearney, sales trainer at The Container Store, is pursuing an MBA from University of Phoenix.

On a mission to save bricks-and-mortar stores

The Container Store’s Althea Kearney appreciates and understands the many challenges that traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers like hers face from online and mobile competitors. But she believes the physical store’s days are far from numbered — in fact, she sees herself as part of a retail renaissance that will see more and more customers walking through her door.

My big dream for my retail career is to curate inspiring customer experiences within physical stores using data analysis combined with design-based thinking.
Althea Kearney

As she envisions the new retail landscape, physical retailers will use many of online retailers’ weapons — namely, advanced data analytics — to create better and more relevant in-person experiences for customers. Retailers can create better products that are better suited to customer needs while cultivating store environments that inspire, excite and engage customers’ heads and hearts.

“My big dream for my retail career is to curate inspiring customer experiences within physical stores using data analysis combined with design-based thinking,” she says. After all, customers still want to see, touch and experience products. “As the barrier to price and convenience of online shopping disintegrates, customers will continue to crave personal connections and expertise.” And through personal interactions with sales associates, they can become inspired to “become more organized, to find more time and space in their lives, to live green and to get happy.”

With her Dream BIG scholarship, Althea will meld her design background with an MBA from University of Phoenix. She asserts that doing so will allow her to make “smart business decisions that increase engagement with customers” and ultimately benefit The Container Store’s bottom line through increased customer loyalty and higher levels of sales.

That dogged determination helps not only her company, but her community as well. She has been active in community gardening initiatives, and she recently began researching how to apply her unique skillset to projects for Habitat for Humanity (again showing her commitment to bricks-and-mortar environments).


The National Retail Federation collaborates with University of Phoenix to offer the Dream BIG Scholarship to people who work in retail. This year, 20 recipients received full-tuition scholarships to help them pursue their big dreams. Meet the Class of 2014 and learn more about the Dream BIG Scholarship.