Ikea planning smaller, local stores

Millions of marriages saved?

malmo jun 14  ikea malmo store...

Realising that not everybody can manage a three-hour round trip to buy a Billy Bookcase, Ikea is planning to open a series of smaller stores.

The new outlets won't have quite as many flat-pack storage solutions as the current superstores, but will offer click-and-collect facilities. Meatball fans will be relieved to discover that they'll have cafes too.

"We know that consumers in the UK like to shop across many channels and are using multiple devices. Our customers are also telling us that with 18 stores in the UK, we are often too far away," says Ikea UK country manager Gillian Drakeford.

"Order and Collection Points give us the opportunity to trial new ways of being more accessible."

The company is believed to have come up with the plan in part because it's struggling to find enough suitable land for its standard, enormous, superstores.

It plans to start in Norwich, where customers currently have to travel more than two hours to the Lakeside or Milton Keynes branches to see the product range and get planning and design advice.

The new store will act primarily as a planning studio, allowing customers to consult home furnishing experts for advice and support when deciding (or arguing) about complicated items such as kitchens or wardrobes.

They'll be able to touch and test the product range and collect orders made online or in the store. But the shop will have only a limited range of products that can be taken home there and then.

Other stores, says the company, may have slightly different formats. Ikea is already trialling several different options in Spain, Norway and Finland. And the company is also planning to rebuild existing stores, update its online shopping system and try out new services for customers.

Allowing customers to shop more locally may affect one of Ikea's most notorious attributes - its ability to set normally harmonious couples at one another's throats.

It's such a problem that US clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula has started taking warring couples to the store to explore their relationship issues. "The store literally becomes a map of a relationship nightmare," she tells the Wall Street Journal. It may be more navigable from now on.

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