Thursday, October 21, 2021

IKEA is killing off its worst customers: its reputation for becoming all things to all people | Frances Ryan

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Imagine being an IKEA customer who likes sofa and two cool sets of drawers. Think of you as the sort of person who enjoys lugging your own suitcase to a service station or a bargain supermarket in the middle of nowhere, rather than ordering online or waiting an hour at a cash machine.

As you walk into a London IKEA store you might feel perfectly natural but your smartphone might not be permitted on the premises for fear of destroying that tree of yours. Meanwhile, this same customer may want to put her feet up and turn off the sound. It’s possible her tastes are too much like those of the vast majority of people who visit their shops.

After all, it’s a cliche that IKEA is our nation’s furniture shopping Mecca. The Swedish company is so popular in Britain that in addition to bringing in as much cash as Tesco, it also has the second highest number of customers per square mile in the country.

There’s only one catch: the vast majority of Britons do not like what IKEA sells. Its Ikea Friends range of affordable furniture, which we might as well just call IKEA, has raised hackles among many customers, who don’t like the look of weedy toasters when they try to eat food on a boring kitchen table. And if there’s one thing Britons hate even more than they dislike that type of furniture, it’s too many nice things.

This is where games consoles come in. In more than a decade that British households have had consoles, they have been using them for an entire family of games. IKEA has taken note, and it has realised that many of its customers are looking for ways to spend more time in Ikea stores with the television and DVD players in the mood to engage in new experiences.

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To meet the growing demand, Ikea has designed the IKEA Gaming Chair, a £50 summer accessory that comes with an awesome wooden hand. Please be aware that even though the chair is wood, Ikea may remove this hand from the chair if you catch it in a box, or try and stick it to your leg with a sharp knife. The idea, presumably, is that if you don’t call their bluff, they will remove it from the chair. This warning comes from a man who once tried to convert an IKEA mannequin into an Ikea maid. When the mannequin resisted, his neck was broken.

If all of this sounds a bit Dickensian, it is. But since the row over the vast store in the City of London, which is being remodelled and may eventually kill off old shops on the site, and the Jack Straw-style ban on travellers, I think it’s now safe to say Britain has become more quirky and IKEA-friendly.

There will always be a small but vocal minority of IKEA customers who will never approve of buying anything with too many sides. Even so, hopefully with this new gaming chair and that expensive wooden hand they’ll become like the millions of consumers who have loved IKEA all these years. And so the bad times for IKEA are over. And my family can spend less time in the store’s waiting areas – and the screen-based entertainment consoles in its theme areas.

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