The world's largest furniture retailer has a cult following. When a new Ikea store opens, people camp out -- sometimes for days -- to be the first through its doors.

If you're patiently waiting for Ikea to come your town next, you might be waiting awhile.

It takes three to four years to open a large-scale Ikea store, Fast Company reports. What's more, The Guardian reports that U.K. profits are down significantly, leading Ikea to halt construction on what would have been its second-largest store in Cuerden, England. No great news for their expansion plans.

Ikea just got a little smaller

But there's hope for Ikea fans. It appears that Ikea is experimenting with a new type of store that's less costly to build and faster to open. Instead of the giant blue multi-level boxes with massive parking lots, Ikea is trying out smaller scale stores in cities. More suited for denser urban areas and with a smaller footprint, these are similar to CityTarget or 365 by Whole Foods. It would be more of a pick-up-and-go experience instead of a get-lost-for-hours experience. And the smaller stores can be opened in just six months, bringing Ikea to more markets at a faster pace.

You don't actually do much browsing in these smaller Ikea stores. Some publications are reporting that they won't have restaurants -- that means no meatballs.

Ikea's U.K. and Ireland retail manager Javier Quiñones spoke to The Times about his plan to roll out more of these in Europe over the next two years. The first is opening in London this fall. It will offer 24-hour online delivery and a curated selection of Ikea kitchen and bedroom products. The Guardian calls these "order and collection counters."

40 percent smaller footprint

Ikea has been experimenting with these smaller stores since 2015, Bloomberg reports. Bloomberg visited one smaller store in London, which had just a few model rooms. There wasn't room for much else. The store is just 9,700 square feet. Compare that to the average suburban Ikea, which is 25,000 square feet -- almost 40 percent smaller. Bloomberg attributes the declining foot traffic in Ikea stores to a shift in behavior among young people, who are Ikea's target consumers. Rather than drive to an Ikea store, meander around and bicker about what to buy, they'd rather shop online from home.

Perhaps Ikea has become such a ubiquitous brand that customers no longer need to meander through a giant store and sit on the furniture to be convinced to buy it. Just last year, Ikea launched a VR app that helps you see what their furniture looks like in your home. The new Ikea store format still invites customers to interact with the staff, but has fewer tangible products you can see and touch.

Would you buy a couch without ever having sat in it? Maybe so. This smaller store format might be the way Ikea stays relevant and growing as the retail landscape continues to shift.

No smaller scale stores have yet been announced in the United States. For now, all existing Ikea stores will remain as-is. So you can still immerse yourself in the full Ikea experience: Wander in, kick back in one of the staged bedrooms, get kinda lost, eat meatballs, walk out two hours later with a flat-pack bookshelf and dozens of other items you didn't know you needed but were too good of a deal to pass up. Just know that when you tell your grandkids stories about all the fights you used to get in while shopping at Ikea, they may have no idea what you're talking about.

Published on: Jul 24, 2018
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