The joy of IKEA.... The Swedish home furnishings giant has finally opened its East Palo Alto warehouse, which means that I now have the ability to enjoy the longest lines this side of Space Mountain and Swedish meatballs 365 days per year.
While IKEA certain has its drawbacks (carpal tunnel syndome, anyone?) it is remarkably successful as a business and as a retailing experience. Here's why:
1) It's cheap. 'Nuff said.
2) It's stylish. Despite being limited to flat components and low prices, IKEA's designers are really good at ripping off classic designs. The Palo Alto Weekly ran an article showing how IKEA carried knockoffs of designer furniture for an average of 1/10th the price. The designer store owner argued that the real designer stuff would last longer. Guess what, buddy, anyone who has kids doesn't care. Besides, for 1/10th the price, I could simply buy a new set of everything every 5 years and still come out ahead.
3) It's visual. Unlike normal furniture store, IKEA focuses on the experience, rather than the catalog. By forcing shoppers to wander through a series of demonstration rooms, the emphasis is on how the pieces actually look in the home.
4) It's frenzied. Just like eBay or Krispy Kreme, IKEA realizes the value of whipping shoppers into a collective frenzy. Once you enter the warehouse, the madness of crowds overwhelm you. I would be surprised if IKEA pumped extra oxygen in, just like the casinos. At the end of your trip, you tend to stagger out with twice as much as you planned to buy.
5) The meatballs.