IKEA Rightsizes Planning Studio Store for City Dwellers
Under any sort of normal circumstances, when planning a trip to your local IKEA store, it’s best to carve out at least three hours of your day. The first hour is for getting over the initial shock of just how large these big box furniture stores are, yet how filled to the brim they are with every sort of household product and piece of furniture that you can imagine. The second hour is reserved for the actual shopping that you need to do or locating that particular piece of furniture you went there for. And the final hour is set aside for finding your way out of that expansive maze. (Pro tip: follow the scent of Swedish meatballs, which will at least get you to the checkout area.)
Going to IKEA is certainly an experience. Despite the pure chaos of the layout itself, the store is actually designed in one of the smartest and most engaging ways possible. Their series of vignettes give you a glimpse at what life would look like with a house decked out in their furniture and accompanying accessories—minus the hours spent deciphering their LEGO-like instructions and cursing the inventor of the Allen wrench.
However, the experience is certainly one that’s best suited in a suburban setting given both the size of the typical IKEA store and the type of customer that it attracts.
With an understanding of those limitations but a desire to reach a new type of customer, IKEA announced this week that it will open its first Planning Studio in Manhattan on April 15. Located at 999 Third Avenue on the Upper East Side, the Planning Studio departs from the very product-heavy focus that traditional IKEA locations rely on, instead offering visitors a bit of inspiration and smart solutions for city living—I.e., apartment living versus single-family-home living. As such, the footprint of this first location—and presumably all other future Planning Studio locations—is much smaller than a traditional IKEA store. From the two mocked up images that IKEA provided, it looks as if the Planning Studio stays somewhat true to the experience with simple demo areas outfitted with their furniture and other accessories. But it’s very much tailored to the apartment lifestyle.
“We conducted extensive research about city living, and we believe New Yorkers will see their needs reflected this new concept,” Leontyne Green Sykes, Chief Operating Officer, IKEA Retail U.S., said in the statement. “We hope the Planning Studio will serve as a convenient destination for design expertise and stylish, multi-functional home furnishing solutions.”
The Manhattan location is one of 30 new city center touchpoints that the furniture retailer plans to open over the next three years. IKEA explained that walk-ins will be welcome at these locations, but the real intent is to have consumers set up appointments (through an online/mobile booking portal) where they can actual sit down and have consultations with IKEA staff to craft personalized plans for their particular living situation. Those “IKEA experts” will be able to help design spaces and plan projects for the customer, and all purchases made at the Planning Studio will be delivered right to the customer’s home—for a fee, of course. Customers will also be able to arrange for additional services such as furniture assembly and installation.
This kind of move by IKEA follows in a line of retailers opening stores of different sizes and formats. It’s a welcome change from the industry’s strategy from a decade or so ago, which was to simply open as many stores as possible as quickly as possible, all of which looked relatively similar from one to the next. Instead, brands today realize that what they offer isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. They’re thinking smarter and more strategically about how they can enter different markets and provide experiences that are tailored to consumers in that particular region or community. That’s how brick-and-mortar is going to remain relevant well into the future—by remaining relevant to the people each particular location is intended to serve.