At 32,000 square metres the latest addition to the IKEA UK store network is not the biggest, nor is it the smallest. But on a visit there earlier this week I had an epiphany.
Reading. The largest town in England yet to be granted city status. Or so I am told. With a population of 155,000 it’s certainly not big, and it’s the UK headquarters of some of the world’s biggest businesses, including Microsoft, Nvidia, Oracle, and many others.
As of tomorrow it is home to the 19th store in the IKEA UK network. On Monday I was there for a press preview and a tour of the facilities; the restaurant, the room layouts, the self-service warehouse – allt, as the Swedes would say… everything.
A lot has changed in retail since the last IKEA opened in the UK – Southampton in 2009. No surprise then that while it’s opening one store this year, IKEA UK is opening two collection points, and a third just over the water in Dublin.
Adapt or die has become a bit of an over-used philosophy where discussions of retailers’ store networks are concerned.
The store of the future needs to be about providing shoppers with an experience – great service, products in stock, of course. But more than that – the ability to pick things up, examine them close-up and decide whether they want to buy it or not. The store of the future needs to allow customers to get help and answers, it needs to be able to handle returns, and so on, and so on, and so on. You know all this, of course.
The epiphany I had while walking round IKEA with a couple of dozen gloomy looking fellow journalists for company, was that IKEA might have figured all this out decades ago. There are things you can buy and take home on the day – from cutlery to beds. There are online ordering points. There’s integration with an app, so you can create a smart shopping list to refine at home before placing your order. But it doesn’t feel like anyone’s trying to ram the future of retail down your throat – they just want you to have a nice time while you’re spending money on things that make you smile.
There’s not a lot wrong with that.
Elsewhere in eDelivery, Ocado’s new cosmetics store, Fabled, will be opening next month, as the online retailer becomes a fully-fledged multi-channel player. OK, we know there’s a pet shop in London, but that doesn’t count. No, really, it doesn’t.
Sainsbury’s, meanwhile is going to double the number of click-and-collect points it operates. It first started offering that as a service last March. Will it be able to maintain standards in the face of this expansion?
And finally, we have a feature from the eDelivery Magazine archive all about footwear retailer Schuh, which has always seemed able to stay one step ahead when it comes to combining online and in-store customer service.
Regardless of where you buy your groceries or your home furnishings, if you’ve got an idea or a point of view to share, please get in touch. And if you haven’t subscribed to eDelivery yet we’d love it if you did. You’ll get a weekly newsletter summarising the main stories we’ve covered, and we’ll keep you informed of other big announcements. You’ll find details on subscribing here. And if you’re not receiving a copy of the magazine you’ll find details on that too.