We’ve all been there: Two hours deep into the annual Ikea pilgrimage with no clue where to find that kitchen wastebasket you saw online. Despite its love of design, Ikea is not exactly a pleasant shopping experience. In fact, it can be downright frustrating, which might explain why the big box retailer is starting to downsize its retail stories.
Last year, Ikea saw a 40 percent drop in U.K. profits, prompting the Swedish retailer to rethink its strategy. Instead of building big-box hubs on the outskirts of cities (the company has pulled the plug on what would have been the second largest Ikea location in the U.K.), Ikea will begin rolling out a series of smaller retail experiences in the heart of urban centers.
Ikea is opening the first small-scale store this fall on Tottenham Court Road in London and may open more of the sort in Europe soon. The smaller stores will, understandably, offer fewer items (and, sorry, no meatballs). But the idea is to use the retail outlet as a showroom experience for customers who would rather buy their furniture online and have it delivered.
Bolstering its online presence and streamlining the in-store experience makes sense for the retailer, whose name has become synonymous with jokes about couple breakups and mental breakdowns. Make Ikea more accessible (and manageable), and it could be a win for everyone.
Ikea certainly isn’t the first to go small and urban-focused in this tricky era for retail. Target’s small-format stores are a notable precedent, the latest of which may have gotten a little carried away with its concept.