August 4, 2008

My First Time

Consumerism has long been one of my biggest pet peeves, especially now that “Going Green” seems to be so main stream and top-of-mind. Sunday I had my first real-life experience with Ikea. I had been lusting after many products online and in catalogs for a couple of years now, but never had the opportunity to visit a store in person. From what I’ve heard about Ikea, the experience was all that I expected and more!
I think Ikea is a great source for small items that change quickly with trends, but their products lack of timeless sophistication and quality you may desire for a larger purchase like furniture. I kea’s retail environment is a great hybrid of a true furniture store and a big-box department store. Too bad the quality and life of the products don’t embrace the same principles.
Ikea hosts cozy, trendy, and delightful vignettes of rooms and even showcases entire apartments, similar to what you would expect in traditional furniture stores. These rooms are cleverly arranged and decorated with much thought, from lighting to flooring, and even providing inside organizational inspiration. All items showcased within each vignette holds a tag with proper information on where to locate later in the store. Each area within the store has a great area to test the furniture and find the perfect fit, the “Goldilocks Strategy” if you will!
Instead of buying the products directly from the inspiration rooms, as you would in a furniture store, you continue on the route marked on the floor for you and you enter the big box retail environment. Using the paper guide provided, where you wrote down all the items you wanted you enter the merchandise rooms. Even more great deals are presented and it’s hard to resist the impulse purchases. Once you make it through this area (you’re likely to have a cartful) you enter the lumber-yard like aisles where the flat packed furniture is housed. The Ikea merchandising team has done a great job teaching consumers how to shop in their stores and how to apply that big-box approach. This whole system is such an efficient marketing strategy!
That being said….
Ikea boasts several “green” initiatives: reducing plastic bags and encouraging shoppers to purchase reusable bags, changing the lighting in the stores to a more environmentally friendly version and of course their signature flat-pack packaging to create efficient transportation and significant cost savings. I’m afraid no one is looking at the bigger picture. Ikea (and others) have created a throw-away, consumerist society.
What happened to using hand-me-downs in college and your early career years? I admit, I am caught in the same materialistic culture obsessed with image as everyone else. I guarantee if you go into any dorm room across the nation, you will find model-like dorm rooms at every turn, many with Ikea furniture. Hey, why not? It’s cheap and you only need it for a couple years right? What happens to the goods after it makes it through those 4 years (or more)? That’s saying it will even withstand the countless moves college students make.
Ikea provides a cost-effective, trendy solution for dorm rooms and “first-time” consumers, but is that really the way to go? According to Carrie McCarthy & Danielle LaPorte of Style Statement, “Cheap is expensive in the long run. Why buy twice when you can buy once? Commit to quality and it will commit to you.”
Also, I was so excited when I discovered the Bolingbrook Ikea and found out I wouldn’t have to make the additional 30 minute trip north to Schaumburg, IL to have my first Ikea experience. That led me to wonder, “can Chicago-land really support two Ikeas?”
After the visit it was clear to me, Ikea is doing fine and it’s not the big-box store we should worry about, but instead the small stores. I’m afraid there will no longer be any good old Mom & Pop stores left when my children are growing up.
All in all, I bought my share of stuff at Ikea on Sunday and really enjoyed the experience. It will be interesting in the years to come to see how the Ikea's of the world will effect ebay and Craigslist, or just the landfill. That’s my rant for today…

1 comment:

Danielle said...

good post. Ikea is tricky terrain - decent design (some of it's is excellent, some of it is crap.) But ultimately, low low on the lasting quality. You won't have to wait years to see the effect of Ikea on Craigslist. Just go to Craig's now and key in the name of an common Ikea product and you will be AMAZED at the listings. Go to Craig before you go to Ikea!

green love,