Store Review

IKEA Planning Studio London

Designer plans

IKEA has taken up residence in the former Multiyork store on what is arguably the best homeware destination in central London.

The retailer’s first UK ‘Planning Studio’ officially opened unveiled on Tottenham Court Road yesterday. This is a new business model for IKEA, seeing their estate venture into inner-city centres where the huge retail spaces they have historically inhabited simply do not exist.

At just 400 sq. metres in size the store does not hold any stock. Customers are unable to buy anything here without ordering it for delivery (a fact that disappointed many on opening day).

Specialising solely in kitchens and bedrooms, customers are able to plan their rooms with 3D tools or book an appointment for one-to-one time with expert staff in-store. Each appointment of 1 or 2 hours takes place in small open plan offices on the second floor of the store. Delivery and assembly services are then arranged for a time convenient to the customer.

Customer service is key to this kind of store format. IKEA has clearly recognised this, shipping staff in from other sites to ensure both experience and expertise are on hand. The result? Demonstrations of the new in-store technology and information regarding the appointment service were delivered succinctly and knowledgeably.

Signage has moved to a digital format. Although the traditional paper swing tags can still be found, here IKEA is focused on using technology to help customers find information about key products on touchscreens within room sets. Swiping through the screens, you can find out practical data, such as colour options and dimensions, as well engage with video content that showcases product designers and calls out the sustainability credentials of its product range.

IKEA’s current focus on sustainability has certainly not been overlooked in this store. Following its recent pledge to remove all single-use plastic from its product range and restaurants within the next two years, this particular store will be holding workshops on “how to live healthily and sustainably”. Information boards also highlight the company ethos of repair, reuse and recycle. This is pioneering stuff not readily seen from large retailers but very much plays to current consumer values and is long overdue in this sector.

This store will undoubtedly appeal to city dwellers, half of whom do not own a car and to those more accustomed to purchasing online. It’s a future proofing and proactive move for the business, whose profits slumped last year. It’s rumoured there are imminent plans for another two of these store formats in London, as well as in other large cities worldwide. Watch this space…

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By Helen Bonser

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