This year marks the 10th anniversary of IKEA opening its very first store on the island of Ireland, based here in Belfast. To help celebrate the very successful past ten years of IKEA in Northern Ireland, I was delighted to be invited along to a media breakfast morning, which included a short tour of the store and a celebratory birthday breakfast (Scandi-style, with plenty of coffee and pastries, of course!)
During our store walkabout, we were introduced to some of the interior design team and product specialists who make up the 330-strong team of co-workers based at IKEA Belfast. They revealed the top selling products that have demonstrated how IKEA has had its part in ensuring we live a better everyday life here in NI, as well as a really fascinating insight into how life has evolved dramatically over the past ten years, with developments in technology, the rise in open plan living and a general move towards city-dwelling very much dictating how we live our daily lives at home.
Read on to find out what I learned about the shopping habits of IKEA Belfast customers!
Since the store first opened its doors back in December 2007, 14 million shoppers have passed through them, but just what have they been buying and how does this reflect life behind our front doors? Well, IKEA undertook a series of home visits here in Northern Ireland to find out just what ticks our boxes and why…
Some of the most popular product ranges include the BRIMNES bedroom solutions, RIBBA picture frames, HÖVAG mattresses and STRANDMON wingback armchairs. Compared to the rest of the UK, Northern Irish shoppers buy more of these product ranges than anywhere else – why? Well, it could suggest that people in NI enjoy making their homes cosier with a slightly more traditional feel and personal photos and prints displayed around the home; they also cherish a good night’s sleep with a comfortable mattress and they like well organised storage solutions, making more room for living.
Other popular ranges include the KLIPPAN compact sofa, which, due to its affordability and neat design, has become one of the best-selling products at IKEA.
The MALM bedroom solutions continue in their popularity, too, with their ease of assembly meaning that we can literally pop in store, buy a bed, assemble it and sleep on it that same night. The MALM chests of drawers have sold in their thousands, with white being the preferred colour way.
The traditional style of the HEMNES range has also proved popular in NI, with its multifunctional combinations surviving the test of time. Similarly, the PAX wardrobe solution, a revolutionary storage concept introduced by IKEA over ten years ago, has seen phenomenal success and was even updated in 2015 to enable us to build our dream wardrobe in whatever space we have available. Along with the PAX wardrobes comes the KOMPLEMENT interior storage solution, which is fully customisable, affordable and downright clever!
The early 2000s saw the rise of the feature wall and with it, the rise in popularity of the RIBBA picture frame, its simple design allowing the art print or photograph within to stand out. BILLY bookshelves and LACK shelving, side tables and TV benches are also really popular with NI customers, particularly as they are the perfect blank canvas for the up-cycling trend of the past ten years! IKEA hack, anyone?
Home workers and students here have long loved the MICKE desk, which provides compact storage and workspace. Originally designed to fit easily into a small box room, the MICKE is slowly being taken over by the PAX solution as we evolve our box rooms to make them work in multiple ways, and not solely confined to home working.
Finally, it seems we are avid fans of the affordable armchair, with the now 40 year old POÄNG easy chair providing a modern, functional design, whilst the more traditional STRANDMON wingback chair has been relaunched as one of IKEA’s iconic products, proving very popular here in NI, with over 7,000 of them purchased since 2015!
Across the UK as a whole, the way we use individual rooms within the home has gradually evolved over the years, with IKEA reporting a 20% increase in the planning of dressing rooms for the smallest ‘box’ room of the house, as opposed to making it into a home office. This is perhaps due to the fact that office working is much more mobile than before, with people working from home at their kitchen tables or developing that unused space below the stairs or in the corner of the hall into a personal office area.
Based on their gathered research into customer behaviour and buying preferences, IKEA Belfast recently redeveloped a large proportion of its store, the most significant change being the newly renovated room sets, designed to more closely reflect life at home in Northern Ireland. The most popular room set is the cosy, more traditional one seen below, which includes a fireplace, bay window and low ceiling. Its design was in fact based on a real life period home in Belfast! The clever emission of subtle scents in the room helps evoke a sense of emotional connection with the room, making customers feel at home and more able to visualise living in that space – sensory marketing at its best!
Another room set includes a set of stairs and underneath it, cleverly constructed storage solutions, reflecting the fact that the family of 2017 prefers to clear away the toys and games at the end of the day to enjoy a much more adult space to unwind in once the kids are tucked up in bed. Sound familiar?! This is a notable move away from the IKEA room sets of the early days, which had toys set around the furniture to reflect a busy family home.
My favourite room set was one featuring a clever modular sofa arrangement, because it brilliantly reflected life as we know it today. Built upon the concept of families living ‘Together Alone’, its flexible design allows family members to enjoy time together in the living room, however with each person doing their own thing – one might be on the iPad, so needs a charging point beside them, the other will be stretched out on the sofa watching TV, whilst the third person could be doing work on the laptop facing away from the TV screen with their headphones on. Again, sound familiar?!
IKEA recognises the changes in our daily lives that are powered by our reliance on new technology and its design teams respond with new products for every situation, making technology even more accessible everyday. It also prides itself on keeping up with and predicting the next big trends. Below, some of IKEA’s ‘Vinter 2017’ sets; this one reflecting the current Danish-born trend of ‘hygge’, where we are encouraged to consider our outdoor space as an extension of our homes, often well into the cooler months, when traditionally the patio was a no-go area! Throw in a few sheepskins and some twinkly lights and you have yourself a relaxing space worthy of any Instagram grid!!
Always looking to the future, IKEA have recently been collaborating with well-known designers in order to change up their product ranges to keep up with what the customer wants, particularly those with a more unique sense of style, who may not have considered shopping at IKEA before. One such collaboration this year was with the Danish design duo HAY, (which I wrote about in a past blog post here) who designed the YPPERLIG collection. These are affordable, design-led products made to last which prove IKEA is willing to push the design boundaries. Another exciting upcoming collaboration is with Bea Åkerlund, a Swedish costume designer with a quirky sense of style. Her new OMEDELBAR collection promises an edgier, eclectic look, due to be launched in February 2018. Put it in your diary as it’s sure to fly out the door and remember every collab collection is only in store for around 6 weeks or until it’s sold out.
It appears that IKEA is one step ahead of its customers, thanks to its forward thinking and imaginative design teams, whose creativity is bursting at the seams! I was excited to be a small part of IKEA’s current birthday milestone, however I’m even more excited by what they have in store for us in the next ten years!
So, what’s my favourite IKEA product? It has to be the MOSSLANDA picture ledge, which I have several of, as they are easy to update and refresh for a whole new look. I’m also loving the new SKOGSTA range of acacia wood benches and stools.
What’s your fave IKEA product?
** This post was written in collaboration with IKEA Belfast, who kindly invited me along to their birthday breakfast event and gifted me with a small selection of their seasonal products.**