One of the buzz-worthy news items to come out in the midst of the pandemic is the opening of IKEA’s first branch in the MOA Complex in November 2021, just in time to cater to the metro’s for the Christmas rush.
While many home improvement buffs and shopaholics are set all abuzz with excitement at the news, other consumers may be saying, “IKEA who?”
For folks who may not have yet heard of IKEA, or may be unfamiliar with its unique shopping concept, here answers to questions you may have about it but haven’t gotten around to asking.
What is IKEA?
Back in 1943, Ingvar Kamprad founded IKEA in Smaland, a historic village whose stony and rugged terrain honed its inhabitants to be thrifty, innovative and possessing of a “no nonsense” approach to solving everyday problems, qualities which may explain IKEA’s way of doing business and its subsequent success.
In 1951, the IKEA began operating as a mail-order catalogue business based in Almhult, a small, forested village in the Swedish countryside. It was at this time that Kamprad decided to sell good-quality furniture at low prices.
Since 2008, IKEA has been recognized as the largest furniture retailer in the world, with presence in Europe, Middle East, North Africa, East Asia, India, Southeast Asia, Oceania and North America.
In 2021, opened its largest store in the world right in our home turf, a 65,000 square meter outlet located in the Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City which houses over 8,000 items.
Why is it named IKEA?
IKEA is an acronym composed of the founder’s initials – “IK” for Ingmar Kamprad), and for places that hold special meaning such as “E” for Emtaryd, the farm he grew up in, and “A” for Agunnaryd, his hometown in Smaland, Sweden.
What makes the IKEA experience so unique?
Shopping at IKEA is sure to be a singular experience, with several factors coming together, such as:
A distinctive Scandinavian design.
IKEA’s furniture and housewares adhere to the Scandinavian design aesthetic which leans towards muted colors, decluttered spaces, use of natural lighting, wood accents, greenery and sleek, modern furniture.
A one-way store layout.
Inside the store, customers are led through a counter-clockwise path that IKEA calls “the long natural way.” This path is designed to encourage customers to see the store (as well as its extensive product inventory) in its entirety, in contrast to the layout of traditional retail stores which allows customers to go straight to the section that contains their desired products. However, there are shortcuts to other sections along this path where more experienced shoppers can skip some areas and proceed directly to where they want to go.
The path starts by going through several showrooms where customers can look at or touch the furniture, taking note of product details indicated in the tags of those that catch their fancy. The customer then gets a cart and proceeds to then open-shelf market hall to pick out smaller items on display. Afterwards, they go on to the self-service furniture warehouse to collect the items they took a note of earlier in flat pack form (more on that later). Before they finally pay at one of the checkout counters, they will pass by the Circular Hub which is aimed at reducing wastage by offering previous display items or discontinued product lines at discounted prices.
Items not stocked inside the store may be collected in a separate customer service or warehouse section.
After checkout, shoppers may opt bring home their purchases by loading them to their vehicles, or make arrangements to have them delivered by IKEA’s delivery service.
Just in case buyer’s remorse rears its ugly head, shoppers have the next 365 days to return their purchases.
Experiential shopping through its showrooms.
The first IKEA showroom came about because of poor sales from the first mail catalogue, owing to the skepticism of the market regarding the quality of its products. Kamprad then decided to convert an old workshop in Almhult into a showroom. Here, customers can look at products, see how they can be tastefully arranged together and try them out prior to ordering.
Today, showrooms comprise a significant portion of IKEA stores; these serve as experiential displays where customers may engage or interact with the products (even take pictures!) or find inspiration for their own home decor.
No to shopping while hungry.
Given its layout and the sheer number of items on display, shoppers can expect to spend a significant portion of their day at the IKEA store (some visits last as long as four hours!). Probably realizing the difficulty of dealing with hungry (or hangry!) customers, IKEA opened in-store self-service cafeterias serving a simple and affordable yet tasty menu of light Swedish fare, the most famous of which are the Swedish meatballs.
Customers can dine in these restaurants prior to entering the showrooms or after checkout, or may choose to take out the food to enjoy at home.
How is IKEA able to sell affordably priced furniture?
While many of us Pinoys aspire to have a well-appointed and tastefully furnished home, we may not have the budget to achieve it. Over the years of its operations, IKEA has made a name for itself as the place for high-quality, yet low-priced furniture through the following practices:
Designing that way.
According to a Business Insider article, IKEA determines what it wants to sell a product for, then designers work with suppliers to make that possible. Thus, IKEA products are of good quality but are priced affordably because they are designed that way. IKEA’s items are also manufactured in bulk, allowing the company to negotiate discounts in production and pass the savings on to customers.
Back during the days when it was a mail-order business, distributing or delivering bulky furniture was not just expensive, but also very difficult, oftentimes resulting in damaged products. In 1956, IKEA got the idea to remove the legs of its LOVET table, allowing the company to pack and ship the product in flat boxes. Doing so cost a lot less to store and transport, bringing about the practice of flat-packing.
Some assembly required.
Flat-packing then led to the practice of self-assembly by customers. With the furniture packed with its parts disassembled, buyers are left to put these together themselves. While some people may not relish the thought of having to assemble their furniture, the handy-men (and -women!) would appreciate the opportunity to tinker around with their tools while producing something beautiful for their homes, as well as the savings this arrangement brings to them.
Think self-assembly is not for you? You may opt to avail of IKEA’s Assembly Service if you’re willing to part with a few more bucks.
The all-important tag.
In IKEA, you won’t find a lot of store associates following you around to answer questions you may have about the store’s wares. Instead, all important information, aside from the price, are provided in the product tags such as the product’s size, color, material, measurements, features, whether you would need to be assisted by a store staff to purchase the item and most importantly, its location in the warehouse, allowing you to locate and collect the item before checkout.
The tag empowers a lot of the self-service among customers while in the store, allowing the company to hire fewer people and, again, pass the savings on to customers.
Can I shop for IKEA items online?
If the idea of braving the metro’s traffic and the crowds while shopping does not appeal to you, fear not: you have the option to shop online.
At its website, shoppers can select the items they wish to purchase according to room, category, series or collection; add these to their cart for checkout or, if out stock or available only in-store, save them to a shopping list to serve as their guide when they visit the physical store.
Online shoppers may also opt to Click and Collect, wherein they can buy online and pick up their purchases at nearby designated locations, saving them the long commute, the trek through the various store displays and the effort of locating their purchases in the self-serve warehouse.
Customers may also download the IKEA Mobile App for more convenient online shopping using their mobile devices.
Where is its Philippine store located?
Shopping at IKEA’s brick and mortar store is an experience not to be missed, as its various showrooms and displays welcome customers to try, touch and feel its products.
You can visit IKEA Pasay at the MOA Square, Marina Way, Mall of Asia Complex, Barangay 76 Zone 10, CBP-IA, 1300 Pasay City, open daily from 10am to 10pm.
In accordance to COVID-19 safety guidelines, all customers are encouraged to practice physical distancing and wear face masks while inside store premises. As only vaccinated individuals are allowed inside, proof of vaccination status is required upon entry.
With this guide to shopping at IKEA, I hope you’re all set for your visit to its Philippine store. Let me know how it goes!