Prof Calls IKEA Layout Tortuous
Describing it as "more S&M than M&S," a U.K.
professor claims IKEA has been successful largely because its floor design
is maze-like and confuses shoppers.
A study by Alan Penn, director of the Virtual
Reality Centre for the Built Environment at University College London, found
that IKEA’s zig-zag trail quickly leaves a customer disoriented about where
the exits are and thereby coerces them to shop the whole store and pick up
impulse items. Sixty percent of items purchased at IKEA are unplanned purchases,
The professor based his findings on a study of IKEA’s north London
store. At a presentation he gave on January 18, the professor said the study
aimed to explain why a "lot of people who go there don’t enjoy it
but still seem to keep going." (His presentation has been posted
"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 told the Daily
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
While stores have short-cuts to meet fire safety requirements, they
are not clearly in the shopper’s vision.
"Also you’re directed through their marketplace area where a staggering
amount of purchases are impulse buys, things like lightbulbs or a cheap casserole
that you weren’t planning on getting," he told the Telegraph. "Here
the trick is that because the layout is so confusing you know you won’t be
able to go back and get it later, so you pop it in your trolley as you go past."
grid-like layouts such as John Henry create a more open and accessible environment,
Carole Reddish, IKEA’s deputy managing director for U.K. and Ireland,
said the layout is designed to inspire.
"Our furniture showrooms are designed to give our customers lots of ideas
for every area of the home, including your kitchen, bedroom and living room," she
told the Daily Mail. "While some of our customers come to us for
a day out to get inspiration for every room, we appreciate that others may
have looked at the IKEA catalogue or online offer, have a specific shopping
list in mind and would like to get in and out quickly. So to make it easier
for those customers, we have created shortcuts."
- Who enjoys shopping in IKEA? (Professor Alan Penn’s Presentation) – YouTube
- Study claims Ikea’s ‘maze’ is selling ploy – The Scotsman
- Why shoppers find it so hard to escape from Ikea: Flatpack furniture stores
are ‘designed just like a maze’ – The Daily Mail
- Ikea layout ‘intended to confuse shoppers’ – The Daily Telegraph
Discussion Questions: What do you think of “one-way” layouts such as IKEA’s versus grid-like store layout designs? Do you think annoyance with restrictive layouts can backfire with customers?