IKEA: What's behind the craze?

10:09 PM, Feb 28, 2011   |    comments
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"We'll probably spend three or four hours there, go to lunch, come back. The place is gigantic," John LaRosa said of the 415,000 square-foot structure being built just off of Interstate 25 between Dry Creek and County Line Road.

That massive structure is an IKEA store.

The Swedish furniture store, founded in 1943, has quite a following at its 300 locations in 38 countries around the world mainly due to its low-to-moderately-priced self-assembly furniture.

Just ask shoppers like Sandee Nelson, who spent a recent afternoon at the IKEA store near Minneapolis.

"I could not live without IKEA! I love it," Nelson said well into her second hour of shopping. Her husband was reading a book in the car.

Mike Carmody, a local who hasn't noticed much of the construction, calls it "the mystery of IKEA."

"I think it's probably that [locals] don't have access to it, but they have heard about it and have seen it somewhere else," Carmody said of the fact that hundreds of shoppers are expected to wait in line for the store when it opens this fall.

"We typically allow customers to line up 48 hours in advance of the store opening," IKEA spokesperson Joseph Roth said.

One look inside the active construction site, which employs up to 500 construction workers, reveals how a carefully-planned formula has won the furniture store so many fans.

It is marketed as a destination, not just a furniture store.

"We actually compare it to miniature golf," Roth said. "It's a family outing."

As Roth walks through the construction site, revealing the layout, the vision becomes clear... and exhausting.

"There will be a natural path that will guide you to a living room department," he said. "Then you will enter office furniture. Then you turn into kitchens and dining. Then you turn into Children's IKEA... And then you'll be hungry. So, conveniently that's where we also have a restaurant."

The store will also have a supervised children's play area where parents can drop them off before shopping. A Swedish market - selling everything from candies and cheese to, yes, Swedish meatballs - will be the last thing customers see before leaving.
That thought alone got Jan Mare pretty excited.

"It's good because they have a lot of grocery that we can't get here," the native of Sweden said.

The store will offer more than 10,000 types of furniture, all of which will be accessible in a warehouse on the store's bottom floor.

"Each [item] will have a tag on it saying where you can find it in the warehouse," Roth said. "When you're in the warehouse then you can pull the product for yourself and take it home."

Such a do-it-yourself way of business does not attract every customer.

"I'm not sure I'm impressed with the furniture. I couldn't say that," Mare said.

Shopping at the Minneapolis location, Magdalene Taylor says she doesn't mind playing handyman.

"It's not hard," she said. "You've just got to have a power tool, and you're on your way."

What most customers agree keeps them coming back are the prices, with some home items being as low as 99 cents.

"To me, it's nice," Kenneth Ampadu said.

One local business expert estimates that the cutbacks people are making during these trying economic times may actually benefit IKEA. It is a concept the store is counting on.

Shoppers entering the store will be provided with a measuring tape, a pencil and a map.

"When you're here, just walk and be inspired," Roth said.

Though the store won't announce a firm opening date, it has already started hiring some of its estimated 400 store employees. The application process has been closed for managers, with the final selections currently being made. Roth says the store will begin hiring sales staff "in the spring."

"I think it's cool. I can't wait," Diane LaRosa said of the store's eventual opening.

IKEA, which had global sales of $31 billion in 2009, estimates that it already has 75,000 Colorado shoppers who visit IKEA stores in other parts of the country. The Centennial store would be its 38th location in the U.S. But the store prides itself on not opening up too many locations too quickly.

"There are key reasons why customers get very excited about IKEA coming to town," Roth said, "the first of which is we're not everywhere."

It is yet another part of a carefully-planned formula contributing to "the mystery of IKEA."

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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