IKEA: Home Is the Most Important Place in the World

After a delicious supper at Sweet Carrot, John and Jackie decided to take us to another place we had never been:  IKEA.  A giant IKEA store opened in Columbus in 2017.  It is so big it has its own exit off I-71.  Sweet Carrot is just a hop away.

Fortified with our Sweet Carrot supper, we headed into the huge IKEA store.  IKEA is a Swedish multinational store founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad.  The first two letters in the company’s name stand for his name.  IKEA has been the world’s largest furniture producer since 2008 and has over 12,000 items for sale on its website.  Today the company owns and operates 415 retail locations in 49 countries.  The furniture is inexpensive and eco-friendly.

Every IKEA store, including the one in Columbus, is laid out in a particular way.  The large blue building with yellow accents pays tribute to Sweden’s national colors.  The layout leads you in a counter clockwise direction, along what IKEA calls “the long, natural way.”  This layout encourages (forces) customers to see the store in its entirety.  You can’t just head straight to one section like most retail stores.

Shoppers can pick up a bag, a list, and a pencil at kiosks throughout the store.  You need the list and pencil to make note of the items you want to buy.  Then you collect those items in a self-service warehouse.  You enter the store and immediately go to the showrooms on the second floor.  After moving through all the showrooms, you can take a break in the restaurant before moving downstairs to the warehouse and checkout.  To encourage parents to take their time, you can check children in at Smaland, a staffed children’s play area.

All of the items are named in Swedish, although descriptions are in English.  I’m not sure why they don’t translate the item names to English also.  Perhaps it is a way of poking fun at themselves or at us.  The furniture is scaled toward smaller houses or apartments.  One space, entirely set up as a house, was 375 square feet – just a little larger than our RV.  The furniture is very inexpensive and comes unassembled.  One of the IKEA jokes is this tagline, “we throw in extra parts just to mess with you.”  A team of scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore programmed a robot to build an IKEA chair.  You can watch that video here.

Visiting the IKEA store was an interesting experience.  We bought a small shelf that Tom assembled to hold our satellite receiver and DVD player.  It cost $12.  I don’t think I’ll be purchasing much furniture at IKEA but I can certainly see its appeal to young people just starting to furnish a home or apartment.