The Surprising Reason IKEA Is Keeping Its Maze-Like Showroom

published Sep 5, 2023
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Sunrise, Florida, USA - June 26, 2020: IKEA South Florida storefront. Companies that are hiring during COVID-19 The COVID-19 pandemic has hit workers in the U.S. hard.
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As delightful as it is, a trip to IKEA can feel a little bit overwhelming — especially if you want to shop for just one thing and you end up navigating through a maze-like expanse to find it. Turns out, so many IKEA fans love the store’s showroom sprawl that the company has canceled plans to transform the signature layout into something a little less enormous.

Back in 2021, the Swedish furniture retailer announced plans to change store layouts in an effort to focus on buyers who weren’t necessarily looking to furnish an entire room, as well as those who live in smaller spaces. The concept, called Home of Tomorrow, aimed to make the labyrinthian layouts feel more immersive, including workshops within each section, while also trying to cater to city dwellers and minimalist buyers.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the concept was tested in 80 store locations in cities across the globe, offering more small-space-friendly items while also making it easier to navigate each store for those who didn’t want to take a long path to get to what they needed.

Unfortunately, IKEA fans just didn’t love the changes, as one exec told the WSJ. Tolga Öncü, head of retail at Ingka Group, which operates the majority of IKEA’s stores, shared that shoppers liked having a “guiding hand” to help them through the shopping experience, with feedback from customer surveys and interviews leading to the concept cancellation.

“We thought we didn’t need to guide the customers because [we thought] the stores are so small we thought they would see everything,” Öncü said. “But it became very clear that [customers thought] ‘No, no, no, this is a big shop!’”

The winding pathway design, meant to mimic an IKEA catalog, “ends up being appealing because you’re walking through perfectly crafted 3D advertisements of your better life, completely immersing yourself in those spaces,” as architectural historian Jeff Hardwick told the WSJ.

Over the years, the company has tested different methods to make the experience more seamless, such as adding in wide cut-throughs, which resulted in shoppers accidentally skipping some sections of the store. The standard narrow shortcuts work well, as Öncü said, even in smaller stores.

IKEA takes customer satisfaction seriously, with Öncü telling the outlet that along with satisfaction surveys, they also place customer-feedback machines around stores and require managers to speak to at least 100 customers a week. Thankfully, it seems like your IKEA experience will remain just as it always has been, which fans will no doubt appreciate.