The Scandinavian God of Shopping

So we’re driving through St Peters towards Sydney Airport when on the horizon—there it is! We didn’t go looking for it; we just stumbled upon it, but while we’re here … why not …

This is our first visit to Ikea and we have no idea what to expect. Parking is like parking at Disneyland with rows and rows of cars as far as the eye can see, and each row has a large alphabet letter (we park in C) so you don’t lose your car, and follow the crowds. Neither of us like crowds so this should set off alarm bells right at the start, but for some reason we don’t hear them, and continue into the store.

Now I’ve heard of Ikea and all the jokes about flat packs, and needing a Masters in Engineering to put your purchase together, but somehow I never really thought that everything came in flat pack. Quelle surprise … but surely you don’t have to put together a lounge suite from a flat pack?

 

We follow everyone else to a sign that says ‘Showroom’. At the foot of the escalator a lady in the blue and yellow uniform welcomes us to Ikea and shoves a card in our hands. It’s at that moment I realise I’m probably one up on everyone else because I can speak Swedish. 

Well, no not really, but many moons ago when I was in high school, I had a pen-pal (remember those—they came before email, Facebook and tweeting) and the aim was to correspond via letter (that’s post) and impart information about your country, your life, your customs and culture, and anything else, and hopefully learn a bit of the language along the way. I was handed the name and address of a young girl called Cristina who lived in Gothenburg, and we corresponded for well over 30 years—yes, really! And, she was a bridesmaid at my wedding. Obviously her English was miles ahead of my Swedish but I did learn some—including the words on the card the Ikea lady shoved in my hand. It said:

“God Jul och Gott Nytt År på Ikea”

And that’s Merry Christmas and Happy New Year at Ikea. Didn’t think I knew that, did you?

Anyhow, back to the store, which not surprisingly; as the card conveyed; is Christmas themed.

Christmas Lounge – complete with roaring (fake) fire

The Showroom is quite amazing with little alcoves done out like lounge rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, kitchens etc, so you can see what the stuff looks like in situ as it were. It’s around this time that we realise everyone is going in the same direction. No-one is meandering like people do in Myer or David Jones. Everyone is being herded around the store by following large glowing arrows that flicker on the floor—it’s done by lighting, so they can change the arrows and herd the customers towards specials or sale items. But on this particular day we are going round in some sort of order—we think.

Ikea Modern Lounge with study area

After the showroom we arrive in the lounge area, followed by the dining area, then led to the bedrooms, then the kitchens. How do you get an oven in a flat pack? No that’s not a riddle. I don’t know the answer either.

Coffee tables, and more coffee tables

Then we are guided to manchester and soft furnishings. I think we’ve followed the arrows for about 5 kilometres by now and have probably walked as far as Mascot. But wait there’s more! Around the corner—and there it is … the perfect Swedish Christmas. There are fir trees, pine trees, and white, silver and gold trees, and more baubles and bows than you can poke a stick at. And I dare say the trees do come in a flat pack.

But we’re over it. Sadly it’s way too much even for me and we start desperately looking for the exits. Unfortunately we still have to follow the arrows (I wonder if Swedish supermarkets are like that?) and after Christmas we have to make our way through babies, kids and toys; light fittings and lamps; accessories; the flat pack pick-up area; the coffee shop and restaurant (well everyone needs coffee and cake after all that …), and finally the Swedish Market, to the checkouts.

Swedish snacks from the Market

 

People are maneuvering trolleys laden with packs, and I lie through my teeth when I can’t help but stop one couple and say I’m writing an article on home-wares and can I ask some questions—I give them my business card just for good measure.

Helen and Phil (names changed to protect the innocent) have spent over $700 today. This is their third trip this year and they’ve bought a couple of wardrobe inserts; and two bedside tables with new lamps (they’re doing up a bedroom … really?), and some Christmas gifts for family members. Nice. Who puts it all together? “Phil does,” says Helen, “he’s very handy, and we’ve never had a problem—never had pieces or screws missing or anything like that. Of course, you don’t expect it to last forever—it’s not like solid oak or anything, but you get what you pay for, and it’s ideal for a quick makeover.”  I suppose it is.

Helen is on roll, “you can get an Ikea person to install it but you have to pay extra for that. I suppose if you’re getting a kitchen or something you’d need to have it professionally installed.” I suppose you would. 

Back at the hotel I randomly Google Ikea deliveries and discover that a couple of young blokes (Michael and Loyzek) in Canberra are making a motza driving to Ikea three times a week to collect online orders and deliver them to the Canberra region. They charge you 10 percent of your total purchase. So if Helen and Phil lived in Canberra they could have ordered online; contacted www.bringithome.com.au and had their delivery within 48 hours. Compared with six hours of driving to and from Sydney; negotiating Ikea (at least another four hours), and getting the goods in the house when you get home, it’s a small price to pay.

And no, I don’t know them—I just think it’s a brilliant idea and I should have thought of it.

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