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The IKEA phenomenon arrives in Cyprus August 30, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Shopping.
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Known for cut good value furniture that has an almost cult following, the store that has seen stampedes caused by extre special offers finally reaches Cyprus’ shores

Recently, during my summer vacations this month in Cyprus, I saw it, in all its blue and yellow glory; IKEA is coming to Cyprus, I shrieked! Two weeks down the line and things are already getting out of hand with female money spenders keeping their passion for buying at bay, new homeowners leaving their apartments and houses unfurnished, all waiting for September 6 when IKEA finally opens its doors in Nicosia…

IKEA is one of those brands you know whether you’ve actually been to a store or not. Unlike other home furnishing brands, IKEA is famous for modern, utilitarian furniture and accessories at ridiculously low prices. You would think that the quality is bad since it’s so cheap but the success of IKEA comes down to one simple and quite brilliant scheme: rather than being sold pre-assembled, which means extra costs in shipping and storing, they figured that an unassembled bookcase would cost less to ship rather than an assembled one! It’s as simple as that and so IKEA’s main slogan was formed: ‘We do our part, you do your part and together we save money’. “Flat pack distribution methods allow for easier transport via public transport from the store to your home for assembly,” explains Constantinos Mourouzides, Manager at IKEA Cyprus. And although IKEA has been slammed repeatedly in the past for its supposedly impossible assemblies, when purchasing a retro lacquered white table for Cy£19 I say it’s worth the ‘impossible’ task!

IKEA was founded in Sweden in 1943 by Invgar Kamprad. Originally, the store sold pens, wallets, picture frames, table runners, watches, jewellery and nylon stockings; practically anything Kamprad found a gap or need he could fill with a product at a reduced price. Then, in 1947, furniture was added to the product range and in 1955 IKEA began to design its own furniture. At first, Kamprad sold his goods out of his home and by mail order but eventually a store was opened in the founder’s nearby town.

It’s been a whirlwind since then with over 255 stores opening around the world and Kamprad becoming one of the richest people in Europe.

And now it’s Cyprus’ turn to be included in the list. Fourlis Group, based in Greece, is the local franchisee of IKEA (with the rights to operate IKEA in Greece and Cyprus), which will also be part of The Mall, another exciting project opening in the area of Latsia. “The store here in Cyprus covers 20,000m² area and will boast 6,500 different products,” said Mourouzides. As with all IKEA stores, the ‘one-way’ layout will be adopted at the Cyprus store.

This basically means that customers will follow a specific pattern of shopping. “Each IKEA is built in exactly the same way, enabling the customer to walk through the store via the furniture showroom, market-hall that consists mostly of accessories and then to the self serve warehouse where they can collect their flat packs and then to the cashiers station for payment,” explains Mourouzides.

Another aspect IKEA is known for is the multiple showrooms designed to give the consumer an idea of how various products work together. “Things can get difficult when you’re trying to figure out if that bed looks good with that nightstand, so I love visiting the showrooms in IKEA, which are basically huge home furnishing exhibitions,” said Mary Tabithou, a UK IKEA regular. Stretching out on a bed, seeing how many people you can fit on that couch or letting your children pick out what they like while you get a pretty good idea, has made IKEA a comfortable favourite. “And it’s not just the basics,” added Tabithou. “Their showrooms look like proper rooms with pictures, books and other little finishings.” Each room is individual with varying colours and themes, so no matter what your age or specific tastes, you’re bound to find something to get excited about.

But it’s not just about seeing, testing and experiencing; all of IKEA’s employees working inside the store are trained to be able to assist customers in whatever way necessary. “All IKEA staff undergo full training in order to completely understand the IKEA philosophy and ensure the best possible service to the customer from whatever their post,” explains Mourouzides. “For example, members of the IKEA Cyprus Team spent several months training and working on site at the Athens and Thessaloniki stores.”

Sceptical about the products’ longevity or quality? “It’s like it’s too good to be true, I know, so you’ll try and find anything wrong with them but in all honesty, I’ve had my desk, TV cabinet, bedside table and chest of drawers for years and they’ve lasted,” says Laura Iasonos. Apparently, all IKEA products are submitted to rigorous resistance tests to ensure they can withstand everyday occurrences within a household meaning drawers opening 10 times a day and children jumping on beds and couches. The practicality and durability of all products is as important to IKEA as the design and style. “While most retailers use design to justify a higher price, IKEA designers work in exactly the opposite way,” an IKEA representative said. “Instead they use design to secure the lowest possible price. They design every IKEA product starting with a functional need and a price, then use their vast knowledge of innovative, low cost manufacturing processes to create functional products, often co-ordinated in style.”

So what happens when you see something you really like? Well, you look at the tag that’s attached to the product and jot down the following: item number, colour, price and aisle number. You’ll notice that around the store small pencils and paper are available, so you can write down your list of purchases and simply pick them out once you’ve arrived at the warehouse.

Another IKEA highlight that those with young children will appreciate is the play area and equipped rooms for mothers and babies. “Every IKEA has a children’s play area, where parents can leave their young ones in trusty, experienced and trained hands and enjoy their shopping experience,” says Mourouzides. “Also, there are rooms equipped with couches and a peaceful environment for mothers who wish to either breastfeed or change nappies.” In-house first aid rooms are also part of the layout and most importantly an extensive cafeteria with a 260 people capacity. “The cafeteria will offer Swedish food including the world famous Swedish meatballs as well as local and international food,” he added.

IKEA may be known for its brilliant cheap designs and home solutions but it’s also known for the chaos and traffic it causes.

Although chaos is expected on September 6, the 800 parking spaces, should, hopefully, be enough! As for delivery: “Although it is easy, due to the flat package designs to literally take your furniture home with you the same day, IKEA does provide a full delivery service for those who require it, at a small additional cost,” explained Mourouzides. And for those who really don’t know their way around a screwdriver, the store will also offer and installation and construction service.

IKEA will open on September 6. 190 Old Road, Nicosia-Limassol, Nicosia. Tel: 22 502502, Fax: 22 502599, email: cs.cyprus@IKEA.com.cy. Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 09.00-20.00, Wednesday: 09.00-15.00, Saturday: 09.00-19.30

An idea of IKEA >
– The company name is a composite of the first letters in Kamprad’s name in addition to the first letters of the names of the property and the village he grew up: Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd. This acronym is incidentally similar to the Greek word oikia meaning home and to the Finnish word oikea meaning right or correct.
– It has been estimated that one in 10 Europeans are conceived in an Ikea bed.
– When an IKEA opened in April 2000 in Emeryville, California, the traffic was so severe that traffic lights had no effect and the local police were forced to manually direct traffic daily for three months!
– In Tempe, Arizona, the nearest off-ramp to the store was closed off by police because of severe traffic and some people attempted to park their cars on the Interstate and hop the fence.
– The Edmonton, North London store opened at midnight, February 2005 and attracted over 6,000 visitors due to huge opening discounts. People were crushed as a result of the rush and the store closed after 30 minutes and re-opened the next day.
– In Saudi Arabia, three people were crushed to death when IKEA offered a limited number of free $150 vouchers.
– IKEA was named one of the 100 Best Companies for working mothers in 2004 and 2005 by Working Mothers magazine. It also ranked 96 in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2006.
– IKEA has opened stores in over 40 countries.
– IKEA contributed 1 euro to UNICEF from each soft toy sold during the 2006 holiday season, raising a total of 1.75 million euros and also provided furniture for over 100 ‘bridge schools’ in India and Liberia.
– IKEA employs over 104,000 employees.
– In Hong Kong, where shop space is limited and costly, IKEA has opened three outlets across the city, which are part of shopping malls.
– Ingvar Kamprad, who is a dyslexic, found that naming the furniture with proper names and words rather than a product code, made the names easier to remember.
– IKEA’s popular catalogue was first published in Swedish in 1951. The catalogue is now published in 27 languages for 36 countries and is considered to be the main marketing tool of the retail giant.

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