So I started off my Monday morning among classmates, plastic chairs, and coffee cups that said “Ikea” on the bottom. That’s right, you guessed it, I was at Ikea. For a school assignment, no less.
The task was simple: market research. Who was at Ikea at 10am on a Monday? How did they shop? And, what exactly were they there to buy?
The first thing I noticed as I watched people line up at the door at 9:30am (from my warm vantage point inside a friend’s car) was that the demographic at this point was decidedly, retired. As I sat inside the restaurant ten minutes later with my cup of coffee (free before 10am) I realized that the people around me were those  looking for a good deal on breakfast ($3 gets you a full breakfast) and  those who had time to spare before starting the rest of their day.
1. 65+ crowd
2. parents trying to occupy young kids
3. construction workers
These people weren’t looking to shop. And they didn’t. They ate and they left, spending all of $3 on a full breakfast.
As my classmates and I progressed through the store, leaving the breakfast-only crowd behind, we noticed another group emerge: couples looking to beat the expected influx of afternoon and evening shoppers by shopping in the morning.
These people, the ones looking to shop in relative quiet, were there for a reason. They were there to find something in particular but, because of the relative emptiness of the store, seemed to be in no rush to leave in a hurry. They wandered, until they found what they had been looking for in the maze that is Ikea and then stood there looking pained – as if there were too many options and they couldn’t decide. (This inevitably led to people on their phones trying to describe to their ‘second opinion’ on the other end of the line the plethora of choices that stood before them.)
Back to the idea of the maze, I’m sure anyone who has wandered through an Ikea has had this thought enter his or her mind: this place is built for browsing.
An employee mentioned that the first few days after the grand opening were exciting because of the rush of people but said that it slowed down after Christmas, both in the influx of people and in the speed with which they wander through the store. This employee also said that people come into Ikea for all kinds of reasons– some to make purchases and many just to get inspiration and take notes that may lead to a purchase in the future. There seems to be little discrimination by employees against people who just want to browse. Like I said, the place is built for it.
I was incredibly impressed by the placement of in-house promotion throughout Ikea. The As soon as you might just be getting hungry, having wandered for about 20 minutes along the predetermined path, there’s a HUGE poster telling you how cheap it is to eat upstairs at the restaurant.
Merchandizing and self-promotion has to be incredibly important to Ikea’s success. It serves up inspiration to all who wander through the inescapable maze, creating want and desire where they previously were none. The displays that show you the whole package (down to the toothbrush holders in the display bathrooms) are the most effective. It’s really what sets them apart from the Bed Bath and Beyonds and the Pier Ones of North America. That, and the incredibly low prices.
I did find it frustrating that you couldn’t just pick up and buy what you see. You have to wait until you get to the lower floor where all the products are stored. That being said, they do have tags that tell you where exactly to find it.
As I wandered around (I’m prone to wandering, especially in Ikeas) I had this feeling that I’m screwed if I leave the predesigned path. It’s annoying, even when you’re fully prepared for the experience.
But, if you stick to the path, you can be out in an hour. For me that was about 11:12am.
I think Ikea will be a success here in Winnipeg. We’ve waited a long time for this milestone (we’re not really a major city if we don’t have an Ikea, are we?). Winnipeggers will keep Ikea alive and well for a long time to come. Those are my thoughts.