There are undeniably good things about Ikea. The Swedish furniture giant has completely revolutionised the way we shop for furniture, and there’s probably not a home in Europe without a Billy bookcase or a Poang chair. Ikea’s products are value for money, fashionable, practical and (mostly) easy to assemble.
If, however, you’ve experienced the hell which is Ikea on a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, you’ll know what it’s like to be pushed, stuck four hours at the tills and end up coming home with a bag of tea light candles and some oddly shaped mugs that you hadn’t intended buying. Surely there must be an easier way to shop at Ikea?
We’ve spoken to some of IKEA’s biggest fans who have given us some invaluable tips on shopping there. Here’s our quick guide to surviving IKEA that every man needs to read…
Know the Sizes
Most of us decide to go to Ikea because we need to buy something, rather just as a place to wander around on a wet afternoon. Ikea showrooms are massive, and despite the nifty little room sets they like so much, it can be really difficult to work out if the wardrobe or shelving unit, which you are looking at, will fit in your space. Know roughly what size your ideal piece of furniture would be, write those measurements down, and then refer to them in the showroom.
It is also very important to think about sizing if you’re in the market for anything bed-related. Many of Ikea’s beds, mattresses and bedding are not the same size as most other beds sold in the UK. This isn’t an issue if you are buying a duvet cover for an existing Ikea duvet, but is something to consider if you’re buying bedding for a standard duvet.
Get There Early
Just like other retailers, Ikea shops are busiest on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. If you want to survive your trip to Ikea reasonably unscathed, get there just as the doors are opened. Check the website for your local store’s opening hours; many will allow you in to “browse” for 30 minutes before the tills open, so if you know what you’re looking for and where to find it, you can quickly scoot round the showroom and the warehouse, chucking things in the trolley, with the aim of arriving at the tills just as they open. Restaurants also open ahead of the store, so take advantage of their cheap breakfasts and free hot drink before going into battle in the main store.
Know Where You’re Going
Ikea is designed to make you walk past every single thing in the shop before you can get to the tills and escape. This is not an accident. As you walk through the showroom and then the warehouse, you’ll pass endless bins of cushions, light bulbs or candles, all priced to grab your attention. Unless you can stay focused, you will probably walk out with a lot of stuff you never intended buying. Use the Ikea website or their app on your smartphone to do your browsing at home from the comfort of your sofa rather than in store.
You can also use the website to check that the chair or lighting unit you are looking at is actually in stock. You can even see the warehouse location for larger items, which allows you to bypass the showroom entirely and go straight to the location you’ve noted down. Make sure you’ve got everything before leaving the warehouse, bearing in mind that many larger items come in two or more separate boxes. You don’t want to be driving back the next day to pick up a missing box to complete your shelving unit.
Use the Short Cuts
Ikea know that there are lots of people who are put off by the idea of endlessly trailing through home office and kitchen departments when all they really want to do is get into the warehouse and pick up a new frying pan. Most customers will follow the large arrows painted on the floor, which direct you around the store, but look out also for hanging signs that point out the short cuts.
Use the swinging doors to get straight to the department you’re looking for, and if you get confused or lost with the layout, ask a member of staff to point you in the right direction.
Ditch the Kids
IKEA + kids = nightmare.
Do yourself a favour and let someone else look after them. If, however, you have no option but to take the kids with you, try to get a space for them in the Smaland Crèche, which most Ikea stores provide. These play areas take kids from the ages of 3 or 4 to 9 or 10 for up to an hour, free of charge. Some ask for a £1 donation to a local charity.
Check out your local store’s website to see the opening hours and conditions of the crèche and play area. Understandably, this is a very popular service, and at weekends, you might struggle to get a place for your little angels. Get there early, join the queue to drop off the children, and use your hour to get the shopping done before it’s time to get the kids again and head home.
Think About the Transport
One of the schoolboy errors that many people make at Ikea is charging round the warehouse chucking large boxes onto a flatbed trolley, and forgetting that they’ve got a Mini parked outside. Furniture packaging and even flat pack furniture is big, bulky, and heavy too. You’ll need a larger car with the back seats folded flat, or preferably a van to take your purchases home with you. Bear this in mind if you’ve three children to fit in the back of the car too; leaving the kids at home will give you more space for boxes.
Ikea will deliver for you but it’s expensive – prices start at £35 for anything weighing over 25kg, and could be much more if you live a long way from the store. Depending on how much you’re planning on buying, speak to a friend with a large hatchback or transit van and ask whether they’d be able to help you bring everything home.
Hopefully these tips will help you avoid the near mental breakdown that most men have when visiting IKEA. But if you really don’t want to go, you always have the tried and trusted method of simply giving your wife or girlfriend carte blanche on your credit card, whilst you lay back with a beer watching the football. Now that really is the best way to shop at IKEA.