This week Swedish home furnishings giant Ikea throws open the doors of its new Reading store, seven years after it last opened one in the UK.
Offering the full range of more than 9,000 Ikea products, the Reading store has an area of 32,000 square metres across two storeys, 1,000 car parking spaces, and 370 staff, more than 90% of whom were recruited locally.
With UK sales of £1.57bn, Ikea claims to have a 7.7% share of the home furnishings market, making it the UK market leader. It has 337 stores worldwide, and – as of this week – 19 in the UK.
Since its last UK store opening, in Southampton, shopping habits have changed, particularly in the UK, as Reading store manager Johanna Heuren acknowledged at a press open-morning, where she quipped: “if there’s one group of people who know anything about ecommerce, it’s British shoppers.”
There is a more serious side to this, of course, and the growth of ecommerce has informed many of the decisions Ikea now makes about its wider retail offer. There are already two Ikea Order & Collection Points in the UK – Ikea’s take on click-and-collect centres, which also include planning facilities for customers to refine their choices – in Norwich and Aberdeen. More will open in September; one in Birmingham and one in Westfield Stratford City (east London). One will also be opening in Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland.
Store stock and online stock are handled separately by Ikea, with the latter fulfilled out of two separate DCs, one in Peterborough and the other in Doncaster. Despite this, customers can return items to any store, whether bought online or in-store.
Other developments, in addition to new collection centres, include combining the Ikea app with a dedicated workstation and table, with an overhead camera which allows shoppers to create a mood board comprised of elements of kitchen design. The combinations of handles, door types, colours and so on can then be printed or emailed direct to the customer for later reference. Called Style Island, the Reading store is the first to offer this service, which will be rolled out to other stores.
The eDelivery View
Sean Fleming, editor of eDelivery.net, and Reading resident, writes:
Ikea has been in the UK for 25 years, and if you’ve been to one Ikea store you probably feel like you’ve been to them all. Chances are you’ve grumbled about the same thing everyone else has grumbled about too – why do they make you walk round all the room layouts and furniture, when all you want to do is buy a new frying pan, or some plates? Why..?
The last two years have seen an increasing awareness in the retail sector of the changing nature of store networks. Customers no longer flock to your store to buy things. They’d rather – in many cases – have a look around, then order online. If your stores are designed to hold stock and sell it, you’re behind the times; the store of tomorrow will be all about customer experience, we are told – I’ve even written it myself several times.
Meanwhile, Ikea has been quietly getting on with being the store of tomorrow. Bra jobbat, as they say in Sweden.
You can visit an Ikea store, sit on all the sofas you like, lie on as many beds as you want, and open and close cupboard doors until your arm starts to ache. You can make a shopping list using an app and order what you want from the comfort of your own home. You can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s even a creche – Småland. Yes, it means small land, or small country. It’s also the name of the province in Sweden, where Ikea originated.
If there’s one thing a visit to Ikea has always been, it’s an experience. From the big blue bags to the meatballs, the huge self-service warehouses to the kids’ soft toys. A stock-holding warehouse, with (in the case of Reading) 52 room layouts, off-and-online integration, a restaurant that seats 450 people, and a car park with 1,000 spaces.
I’ve seen the future, and it comes with meatballs.