In the UK, £1 in every £10 we spend on furniture goes into a great big yellow and blue Swedish pocket. So how did we all come to embrace Faktum furniture and the open prawn sandwich?
Ikea arrived in the UK in 1987, and now has 18 stores. That’s far fewer than many other chains – Habitat, for example, has around double that number.
Yet a recent report from Mintel says Ikea’s share of the furniture market in 2009 was almost 10% of sales by value, making it the biggest seller of furniture in the UK.
Ikea is a store we hate to love. Anyone who’s been there will tell you about their experience of exit panic. That feeling you get when you’ve gone in too far, and you have to get out, but you can’t see where to go.
Why do we keep going back?
They’ll also tell you about how they went in to pick up a Billy bookcase, and came out with two lamps and a variety of storage solutions. I have done all of this, many times over. The point is, we have a terrible time when we’re there, but we keep going back. We can’t help ourselves.
In the recent Which? survey of high street shops, Ikea did stormingly well. In the homewares and garden furniture category, it came third out of 30, after Lakeland and John Lewis. And was way above competitors like Habitat, Homebase and B&Q.
Many people probably don’t realise until they shop there that Ikea offers impressive guarantees too. Most of its ranges come with 10 and 25-year guarantees and almost all the Ikea branded domestic appliances also come with a five year guarantee.
I have to admit, although I resent having to walk through endless scenes of perfect Swedish living to get to the kids’ toys section, I’m always caught by the fact that everything costs slightly less than I expect it to. And it looks, actually, quite good.
I’m now used to delivery nightmares and huge queues to pay. I hate them, of course. Still, I know perfectly well that, come Christmas, I’ll be back to buy star lights that look like they’re from a fancy shop but cost less than a tenner.