Friday, April 30, 2010

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 23

The Successful Innovative Company of the Week is: IKEA!
What they do right: IKEA changed furniture shopping into a schedule-able event. I have only been to an IKEA once. However, it occupied most of my afternoon. My friend was intent on buying a table and chairs for her apartment. We left in the morning for the hour long drive there. Then we ate a four dollar filling lunch. If cafeterias like that were more accessible I would go more often. A similar meal at a typical college will run two or three times as expensive.

As we journeyed from the start to finish line through IKEA visiting each room with a different theme I was amazed by the selection. I was even more impressed by the people. Yes it was August a traditional moving month for both college kids and others yet there were hundreds of people there at the same time. August 2009 the economy was not great at that time yet there were hundreds of people out buying new furniture. Furniture is the kind of purchase that is made every decade or so and most college kids would be content with used sofas from Goodwill so this was a rather surprising experience.

Their organization is second to none. They have one of everything displayed nicely on one level. On the lower level they have stacks of boxed filled with disassembled furniture in the same layout as the display level. That is to say that on the display level there will be a dresser in the far corner of the store. On the warehouse floor in the same far corner will be a stack of disassembled dressers in cardboard boxes. By taking a tag from the display piece you like you will be able to find the stack of boxes on the warehouse level containing that piece of furniture.

As far as style, most of what they offer is modern with simple lines and shapes designed to be assembled by normal people. Which is really nice. I like the whole modern thing. Hey, I like Piet Mondrian. However, I also like solid-wood-construction, too-heavy-on-moving-day, no-it-doesn't-come-apart, could-probably-take-a-bullet-for-me furniture as well. I've built this kind of thing and it lasts a long time. I think there is a place in a room for both types of furniture.

What they could improve: The sales representatives, as I remember, were not the most informed about their products. When asking about alternative colors or mixing tables, legs and chairs to get the perfect combination they were not very helpful. When a sales representative says he or she is not sure then reads the sales tag, that you have already read, before admitting that they don't know, I wonder what he or she is getting paid to do. Can the table and chairs be bought separately or do they have to be bought together?

There was also a general lack of sales people, a fact that some people may actually like. I however on the other hand like to talk to someone that knows their product. When I go into a running store to buy shoes I usually have to spend 15-30 minutes trying shoes, jogging, trying some more, jogging and talking with the sales person about my feet and running. I have tried on dozens of shoes because of a sales person's recommendation that I would have never given a chance.

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