I want to study is Ikea. This is obviously because I was there just there this past week and I want to understand how they separate me from my money! I take an annual trip there with my friend (and downstairs neighbour) Cecilia. Despite my assertion that you should only buy the *really* cheap things at Ikea (because if you were planning on actually buying something good quality someplace better deserves your money) I still ended up spending $100.


Okay, so there are many artifacts in an Ikea. What I really want to look at though is the way that the store is laid out, and what assumptions are implicit in this form of organization. In case you haven’t been to an Ikea, it pretty much goes like this: first, you’re led through a number of showrooms, with arrows showing you which way to walk. After the showroom comes the restaurant and then the retail area where you can buys smaller items that you saw in the showroom, like kitchenwares and bedsheets. After the smaller retail items, you are funnelled into the “self serve” furniture warehouse where you can pick up all of the larger items that you want to buy (larger chairs, beds, entire kitchens, etc). Having been to Ikea in three different countries (Canada, Switzerland, Hungary) I can tell you that it works pretty much the same no matter where you are in the world.


Ikea is hugely successful in the developed world. What I think is interesting about this is that the layout is the same everywhere: a quick look at Wikipedia revealed that my observations concerning it’s layout extend beyond the three countries I have direct experience with. It seems to me then that the folks over at Ikea have discovered some sort of universal human truth, because Ikea is successful no matter which cultural context it exists in (assuming the local population is able to afford it’s products). Ikea has found a successful way to disseminate the information concerning it’s products in a manner that is pleasing to it’s audience. I don’t want to burden Ikea with the future of the human race, but I think that a lot about human nature can be uncovered in an Ikea showroom!



Image courtesy of http://avoidingatrophy.blogspot.ca/2012/08/ikea-and-other-letdowns.html



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2 responses to “Ikea

  1. Hi Portia,

    As someone who goes to Ikea about 3-5 times a year, I’ve had similar thoughts running through my head as I have walked throughout the store, being led by the arrows. For such a huge store, they do make it quite simple to shop (actually assembling the products is a completely different story!).
    An area of the store that they have used wisely is the checkout area. There are bins of small, cheap products (e.g., napkins) that people passively pick up. It’s a great sales tactic especially when the lines are really long (which is often) and people have nothing better to do than rationalize another purchase (unless they are with someone who can buy them an ice cream cone at the nearby food counter). Ikea makes use of literally every square inch of their space.

    I really like how you pay attention to different countries/cultures and how the Ikea blueprint remains unchanged. Your potential research could involve many areas of study: sociology, culture, architecture, economics, etc. I can think of two assumptions that their blueprint makes about us: we like to eat and we have short attention spans. It would be interesting to compare major international corporations with respect to store design.


  2. You should really read the blog entry where the picture comes from. It’s pretty funny. First of all, the blogger (a woman) compares the map of Ikea to the seven circles of hell. She has embedded a video of a scene from 500 Days of Summer where the main characters frolic around an Ikea, talking about how this is how she envisioned her trip to Ikea with her husband going. Of course, it doesn’t. She then goes onto listing other movies that set her up for disappointment, for example Benjamin Button and painting a house/apartment.

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