For a business stated in 1926 by a young boy in Sweden, to a global brand valued at $US11.5 BILLION and listled as Forbes #41 World Leading Brands, to me it's just a fantastic place to buy the things you never knew you needed, to share a few hours giggling with a friend (female usually as there are few men who will 'enjoy' the Ikea experience as much and they only accompany you if there's heavy stuff to buy), and to fill a semi-permanent home quickly, effectively and efficiently.
Ikea has 298 (fairly identical) stores scattered across 26 countries, selling (pretty much the same) 9,500 products.
Like so many global brands you just KNOW what the experience is going to be like before you've even entered the store - it's kinda creepy and comforting at the same time.
You can see the big blue barn (aka building) several blocks before you arrive at the car park entrance.
FREE parking, with wide spaces for large cars and vans to fit all the goodies inside. People with tiny cars must have to make lots of trips, or have stuff home delivered.
Walk towards the entrance, dodging people navigating the widest, longest, deepest, fullest trolleys of goods imaginable. Or stopping in your tracks while some poor person, usually the man, tries to keep the very big yellow flat-bed trolley moving in a straight line while not loosing any boxes off it.
Once inside, your greeted by (usually) a young person, in an IKEA T-shirt, handing out those tiny-weeny pencils, a blank shopping/order card, and a bright yellow bag and funky small trolly that's always a pleasure to push around the store. If you are on a MISSION, with a list already prepared from the online store, you go straight for the widest, longest, deepest trolley neatly lined up ready to go.
I often wonder, if Ikea's trolleys can be so efficient and a pleasure to push, why can't the supermarkets have similar ones????????????
As soon as the coast is clear, you enter the largest elevator (aka lift) in the world, (or take the stairs or escalators) and start shopping.
Now, here is where Ikea can be really annoying.
When you know what you want, and you want to go straight there and to the checkouts and home, you can't always get 'there' easily.
Ikea is a ONE WAY system, designed to make you walk thru every single department eyeing things you never knew you needed to own.
When G, MissM and I went a few months ago to buy MissM a bedside table, we pratically ran to the bedroom department. G did not saunter thru the other areas, he didn't touch anything tactile (like fluffy cushions or fake plants), he ignored so many lovely things ....... we still left with a few things BUT the bedside table cos MissM and I knew we just had to have a few more tea light candles, and a roll of art paper and one more set of green storage boxes for the cupboard won't hurt.
Even WITH a list, you always end up buying stuff you didn't know you needed.
The familiarity of the place is awesome.
I've been (lucky?) to Ikea in Sydney, Japan, UK and now Ireland.
Trust me, they are all the same, and they sell the same stuff!
When I first moved out of home and needed a lounge suite, MrsE took me to Ikea and I made my first ever grown up Hire Purchase. It was also my last Hire Purchase as those things are a trap for un-economically minded folk like me.
The lovely lights hanging over MrsB dining table in Yokohama, bought at Ikea there is by-chance the exact same one in our stairwell and bedroom in Ireland. I loved it at MrsB's place, and I love it here.
When the packers dismantled our lounge suite and sofa bed I was horrified, saying 'Ikea's only made to be built, not dismantled and re-built. Who keeps Ikea instructions?' to which they assured me every removalist who specialised in global moves knows how to rebuild Ikea without instructions, as it's the most popular furniture of expats.
The bookcase in MrsN's house in Tokyo is the same in our lounge room and MissM's bedroom, just configured to look different.
Ikea has the best arts'n'crafts section for kids, and grown ups who like to get creative.
Thick, chunky sticks of chalk reminds me of the fun times the MissM and MrsR's girls traced the outline of the bodies on the concrete floor of our balcony.
Huge rolls of strong white art paper for any number of craft projects.
The water proof paints that, thank goodness were really water proof, being accidentally painted on the balcony as it missed the edge of the art paper.
SUmmers in Japan are really hot - a group of us would drive in convoy to Ikea, pop the kids into the supervised play area for the maximum time (2 hours) and we'd go shopping - most of us didn't need anything, but the place was fully air conditioned, the kids were occupied, we got some grown up girlfriend time - and of course, we all ended up buying something we didn't know we needed. We'd collect the kids, have meatballs for lunch and go home - a great day out!
The stuff you never know you needed but have to have are usually found in the kitchen gadget section - another pretty bowl, or a few more brightly coloured plastic glasses and matching plates for use outside in summer, a lazy-susan's a great idea for the outside table ..... the list goes on.
My favourite - storage boxes! In all shapes and sizes and colors.
Yesterday I went to Ikea with a friend who has recently bought a new house and needed some bits'n'pieces to have there while the renovations are being done. When she invited me along, I happily agreed as you just KNOW you're going to have an enjoyable few hours!
While walking around chatting and discussing the merits of all sorts of inane objects, I couldn't help but recall similar days with friends in Japan, doing the same thing. With Ikea, you just KNOW.
All I needed was a bedside table for MissM, and some Ikea meatballs.
I came home with no bedside table (again), meatballs, 2 white jugs for juice or water when entertaining, 8 pretty little ice-cream sundae bowls, 4 rolls of brown wrapping paper, several packs of various coloured ribbon, and one more BIG BLUE IKEA Bag 'cos I didn't take one with me as I was only buying the bedside table.
The thing is, I just KNEW I'd come home with stuff, even tho I didn't take a bag, but that's OK, cos I KNEW and being so confident about something is a really nice feeling,
WHAT ARE YOUR IKEA STORIES?
HOW OFTEN DO YOU VISIT?
HAVE YOU EVER BOUGHT NOTHING??????
WHAT OTHER STORES GIVE YOU THE SAME COMFORT?