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Why IKEA Store is a Maze: To Trap Shoppers

Ever been lost in an IKEA store? It's not your fault - turns out the store was actually designed like a maze. Why? Elementary, my dear Watson: it's so you shop more!

The home furnishing chain’s mazy layouts are a psychological weapon to part shoppers from their cash, an expert in store design claims. The theory is that while following a zig-zag trail between displays of minimalist Swedish furniture, a disorientated Ikea customer feels ­compelled to pick up a few extra impulse purchases.

According to Alan Penn, director of the Virtual Reality Centre for the Built Environment at University College London, Ikea's strategy is similar to that of out-of-town retail parks - keep customers inside for as long as they can.

'In Ikea's case, you have to follow a set path past what is effectively their catalogue in physical form, with furniture placed in different settings which is meant to show you how adaptable it is,' he said. 'By the time you get to the warehouse where you can actually buy the stool or whatever's caught your eye, you're so impressed by how cheap it is that you end up getting it.'


Okay, so you pick up a bunch of oooooglas and inglings, a couple of snorks, and you head for the checkout, only to find it stretches across three time zones. So you set them down and walk out the door, without even buying the thing you went there for.
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In a fire or other emergency requiring evacuation, I would probably head for one of the myriad emergency exits that are clearly marked throughout the store.
And when I'm in a hurry, I just look for the overhead posted signs indicating the most direct "shortcut" path to the self-serve/warehouse/checkout-tills.
But then, I've only sampled a few IKEA stores in each of a few countries, so I suppose your local one might be radically different.
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For the keen-eyed, Ikea has shortcut doors throughout the store. Experienced shoppers can get in and out to the register in a few minutes.

Its a rat maze for the newbies though.
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I don't normally self-link, but felt it very necessary here.

this is what I like to do to make my visits at IKEA fun.
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All the ikea's I've been to have a round 'pathway' format. It's essentially a giant square where you start at the entrance and have to travel through every department in order to the warehouse area to get the large merchandise. Most have an upstairs too, where you must walk through the entire bottom floor in order to reach the top. And dern those Swedish meatballs!
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I knew this the first time I stepped into Ikea. How is this news? It's just like Vegas casinos, only instead of slots you're gambling on whether you can attach the flat pack on your car without killing someone on the freeway.
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All major supermarkets use this trick and so many more to make you shop shop shop. Wha? Every major supermarket I've seen uses aisles, and doesn't use huge partitions just to block the view of the rest of the store.

I resent the layout of Ikeas every time I'm in one. It is such a transparent attempt to herd its customers like cattle. I'm here to pick a couple of umlats, goddamit, not take a grand tour of the lerts and fodon sets.
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Having worked at Ikea, I can tell you that there are no radically different stores, they all have a very similar layout. Of course they want you to stay and see everything they have so you buy more. That being said, I can also tell you that the public refuses to look around and read signs. If they did, they would find it very easy to get out quickly whenever necessary. One of the reasons I quit was because they wouldn't do anything about the lack of cashiers/huge lineups, one can only take so much abuse from understandingly frustrated customers.
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I just follow the arrows on the floor mindlessly. Feels like a giant board game.

No impulsive buys really... It's nice just to look around.
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great stuff(minimalism is perfect for my taste), good prices, super return policy and extra parts if you need them - I lost my bag o parts and got another in five mnutes - no questions asked.
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Museums and zoos are laid out this way as well. Fine there, but annoying in a store. Their product names look like something from Dr. Seuss; I wish they'd be a bit more useful. But like most stores these days, they don't care how long the lineup is at the cash.
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At the IKEA I go to, I enter through the exit, walk against the flow of traffic, and use 5 shortcuts to get to the restaurant in like 3 minutes. Eat some meatballs, walk out through the marketplace sections, thereby avoiding all the furniture sections that don't have anything I want to buy.

No one is forcing you to follow the arrows on the ground. You don't have to walk through the entire store if you don't want to.
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I have been to IKEA several times in Frisco, Tx and it's always been a pleasant experience. If you have trouble finding your way out of an IKEA store and don't understand how to get through it, you shouldn't be roaming in public without supervision.

The checkout has never been a problem either. I've been on slow days and on very busy holidays and it's always been relatively quick.

Even though much of their merchandise is completely not my style, I still find it a fascinating place and the items I do like are very well made for the price.
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Surpsing number of IKEA execs read this blog...never seen so many defenses of long lines. I have not made it a practice to visit IKEA in every country I visit, so I ca't speak to that. I guess it is only the Chicago store and the ones that biker ray and dewey are familiar with have long checkouts. Hey, IKEA's business model is what works for IKEA. If you don't like it (and I don't) then don't shop there (again, I don't anymore).
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"At the IKEA I go to, I enter through the exit, walk against the flow of traffic, and use 5 shortcuts to get to the restaurant in like 3 minutes"

Really? At mine it takes one 'shortcut' (which is just an opening that's not featuring an arrow on the floor.)
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My one and only trip to an Ikea (West Sacramento, CA, USA) resulted in no purchases, a claustraphobic feeling from the low ceilings, and a feeling of impending doom here in earthquake country. That was 1.5 yrs ago and still wonder how that maze is OSHA compliant.
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