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We were offended that IKEA was snubbing us

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/12/2008 (3053 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

What is it about IKEA that makes Winnipeggers go so completely mental?

Is it the inexpensive-yet-stylish furniture? Is it the opportunity to put things together ourselves with really tiny tools? Is it our desire that if we can't be as blond and good-looking as Swedes, maybe we can at least curl up on the same futons as they do?

Perhaps the greatest reason for our collective obsession with the furniture-maker, which was founded in Sweden but is now owned by a Swiss foundation, is that it insisted for years that Winnipeg's population was too small to support one of its giant stores.

IKEA shoppers around the globe, including Winnipeg, are drawn to the company’s stylish, inexpensive furnishings.

J. PAT CARTER / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

IKEA shoppers around the globe, including Winnipeg, are drawn to the company’s stylish, inexpensive furnishings.

"When you tell a group of people that they can't have something that other people in places like Toronto and Calgary have, even though the explanation is straightforward demographics, there's a tendency for some people to take it personally. (They ask) why not us? Aren't we good enough?" said Dr. Bruce Tefft, associate professor of psychology at the University of Manitoba.

"You make that leap from an impersonal reason to a personal one and feel badly because you can't have something other people have."

 

 

Local retail analyst Robert Warren agreed.

"You always want what you don't have. The proverbial grass is always greener," he said, recalling the rock-star treatment other retailers, such as Old Navy and Best Buy, received at the christening of their first Winnipeg locations in recent years.

Warren said not only has IKEA built up a tremendous brand image across the globe for the quality of its products and the ease of their use, but it has also become a focal point of civic pride.

"You have to have an IKEA to be a player. It's the thing," he said.

No doubt one of the happiest people in town is Justin Phillips, the Facebook user who created the "Bring IKEA to Winnipeg" group in the summer of 2007. He said the group's membership has doubled to almost 6,000 people in the past month alone.

"It's exciting and kind of surreal," he said. "I like to think we had some impact on the decision, even though it's probably pretty minute. Six thousand people were voicing their opinions, saying they would shop there," he said.

Phillips said both he and his wife have been longtime fans of the furniture manufacturer, regularly loading up at the Calgary and Minneapolis stores, and even having "IKEA parties" years ago.

"IKEA would ship whatever you wanted to your house for under $100. Our friends would pick (their furniture) up from our house and we'd all split (the delivery charge)," he said.

John Winter, a Toronto-based retail analyst, said IKEA appeals primarily to younger people looking for stylish furniture that won't require a bank loan. Winnipeg, with three post-secondary institutions, should prove to be fertile ground.

"It provides contemporary design at a reasonable price. That is, if you don't count the hours of your own time putting the damn thing together," he said.

Winter said the layout of IKEA's massive stores presents a wide array of possible furniture setups for every room in the house.

"It's a great experience going around the stores. You can see how this will fit with that in the kitchen, bathroom, living room, dining room and bedroom. It's a magnificent experience spending a few hours there thinking, 'what if?' " he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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