Bigger and Better for Consumers, But Not Necessarily for IKEA?

English: Logo of Ikea.

IKEA Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quaint, quirky, and utilitarian-in-a-far-from-cosmetic-but-creative-and-distinctive-design; that’s how I would describe most of my purchases from IKEA. My most memorable IKEA acquisition would have to be the Barnslig red-and-blue hard foam bedpost booties (which are, unfortunately, no longer sold at IKEA). These practical, if a little juvenile looking, shoes have saved my tender tootsies from many a walk-by whacking. 

IKEA — which is memorable for sounding like ‘idea’ (not an unwarranted association which the founder may have meant to convey) — has been a perennial favourite to visit, ever since the first one in North America came to Canada in 1976 (that’s the original location in Richmond, BC on Sweden Way). IKEA put the creative and interactive in the leisurely home-sweet-home shopping experience.

Crow Perch

crow perch by Grant Hutchinson, CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

I’ve always thought of IKEA less as a store and more as a home furnishings museum with informative exhibits, a couple of eateries, and amenities (bathrooms for all, and a colourful ball-filled playroom for the little tykes). IKEA is an inexpensive place to grab a quick bite; it has never raised the cost of its popular meals. The two hot dog-and-refillable-pop combo, and frozen yogurt cones are my favourite choices.

Ikea Toys

IKEA toys by Steven Lybeck, CC-BY-2.0

After more than a decade of promised renovations, IKEA finally gave the old Richmond location a facelift, breaking new ground in the fall of 2011 for an even bigger new building on 3320 Jacombs Way (not far away from the old one). The official grand opening was April 25, 2012, with prizes and incentives for early birds and parking nightmares for all, as consumers raced to be the first to see an ever-growing list of ideas for smarter, greener, and more densified living.

Of particular personal appeal are the new layouts for <300 sq ft and <600 sq ft living spaces. It’s a curious thing to learn just how well bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen can be condensed together while simultaneously giving the impression of airiness/openness.

Atlanta Ikea:  592 Square Feet

Atlanta IKEA: 592 sq ft by theunquietlibrarian, CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

Ironically, bigger and better isn’t always the best idea. The main restaurant and food section (where the hot dogs, frozen yogurt, and danishes, were freshly made) at the old IKEA Richmond location were perpetually filled with the bodies and conversations of a wide demographic of IKEA patrons. Getting a seat could be mission impossible, especially on the weekends.

Now, although it’s not the proverbial crickets that you’ll hear, there has been a noticeable drop in walk-in traffic. At any time of the day, every cash register would be teeming with long lineups at the old IKEA Richmond location. Now, seeing three or four consecutive cash registers at the new IKEA Richmond location with no lineups is a common sight.

Has our consumer interest with the products of the Swedish home furnishings giant finally reached a saturation point? Or can the secondary presence of the IKEA store in Coquitlam be partially responsible? Maybe, but this drop came well before the lockout at the new Richmond location–which, approaching its eighth month, still sees no resolution on the horizon (ouch).


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