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We all know the troubles of moving into a new home. First there's the packing up of all the stuff - furniture, kitchen appliances and fish bowls. Then there's the storing of everything into a big truck which takes the lot to the new home. Once there we set up the belongings, most of them broken, the rest of them in a different colour than the new home's curtains. A possible solution to this problem is to buy new curtains or blinds (58 Euros each at the time of writing) for the windows. In any case, there may still be a better solution...

...a Swedish Solution!

The IKEA stores have almost everything you need for a new home and other products which, until a visit to one of the stores, you didn't even know you needed. A visit to IKEA will provide all you need to effectively decorate your home in a charming and original way. Plus, it's a great opportunity to spend all your savings.

IKEA was properly founded in 1950 by Ingvar Kamprad from a farm called 'Elmtaryd' in Agunnaryd, Sweden1. However, the name dates back to 1943 when young Ingvar realised - by selling matches to neighbours, then fish, Christmas ornaments, ball-point pens and pencils - that buying cheap products and selling them for slightly more money can be an effective way of making a living. The now famous IKEA catalogue began in 1950, when Ingvar began selling furniture. Five years later, specially designed IKEA furniture was produced. The furniture was sold in pieces so that it could be stored and transported easily and put together at home with the aid of a two-page instruction sheet. Between 1973 and 1985 fourteen stores were built all over the world, the last in the USA. Stores in Britain, Hong Kong and Italy followed and now (as of 2001) there are 157 buildings in 29 countries.

IKEA's Swedish solution guarantees that whenever you go to the store to buy specific goods, having already decided on your budget, you will no doubt leave the building having spent more than you planned to. You will still have got the blinds pretty cheap though. So what is the secret of IKEA's greatness? Why is the Swedish solution so effective? And what is so special about the place that the checkout registers are, at any given time, helping up to twenty people per line to get rid of their money? The Swedish solution is simple and is about to be revealed:

A Day at IKEA

You enter the building, look at the map of the building and go off in the only possible direction - straight on, following the arrows on the ground. By following them you have to go through the whole store, looking at wholly decorated rooms with all kinds of fabulously cheap decorations smiling at you. When you come to the section you were looking for, the little cart will already have all kinds of stuff piled up in it that you picked up along the way: a pillow, a blanket, a picture frame and an item whose use you cannot remember. It's difficult to pass all these items without at least having a look at them. All of them have interesting names - like CD-racks called 'Benno', chairs called 'Jules' or 'Kristofer', a bedside table named 'Oddvar' and a sort of 'Jaffa' box which goes by the name of 'dåna. Maybe that's one of the reasons why you just grab them and pack them in, although you do not actually need them. Who can ignore a tiny 14-Euro mirror called 'Kojla'?

Taking the cart you head off for the cash register. Now, the cash register is a phenomenon in itself. It could be described as one of the slowest systems ever. Prepare to wait at least half an hour to get to the spot where you can read the cashier's name-tag. Then it's still another couple of minutes until you can place the items on the counter.

A small eternity has passed before you are done with the shopping and you will have spent at least three times the sum you planned to. Your bill is still low though, compared to that of someone else in the store who has just paid about 1986.37 Euros for a new kitchen.

So beware - it's dangerous entering such a store, but the quality is really not bad and the build-it-yourself furniture is a clever idea. But usually you'll buy things you don't really want and need, so maybe you should at least consider buying the expensive roller blinds somewhere else. It's still less than spending money at IKEA.

In the year 2000, 230 million people visited IKEA worldwide. There are 10,000 different pieces of home decorations set up in each store. When you look at those figures it's easy to see that IKEA doesn't really lose much money by selling things a little cheaper. Anyone who ever was able to go in there, just to buy the things he wants and then leaves, deserves the utmost respect!

A further interesting fact; if you were wondering why IKEA is so successful, well, it's not their advertising. Their recent British advertising campaign running with the slogan 'Chuck out your chintz' turned out to be one of the most disastrous campaigns in British history, stopping people flocking to IKEA in their thousands. It must be something else that makes IKEA so successful!

1The name IKEA was taken from the initials of the founder plus the first letters of Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd.

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