Its Catalogue Is Bigger Than the Bible, but I Won't Worship at IKEA!

Article excerpt

Byline: JANE GORDON

ON SUNDAY afternoon - as I sat in grid-locked traffic waiting to be allowed to join the queue for the queue to the IKEA car park - it occurred to me that the famous Swedish retailer is to home furnishing what New Labour is to modern Britain.

Its glossy brochures may have recently been declared the world's most widely-read book - with 130 million copies printed a year, in 28 languages it's more popular than the Bible - but its claim to offer ' Democratic Design' to all is horribly at odds with the reality of the IKEA shopping experience. Much like a Labour Party election manifesto.

In fact, the gulf between the catalogue's presentation (beautiful people elegantly reclining in vast, minimalist New York Loft apartments) and promises (to be 'your special friend in home furnishing') and the real life horror of my trip to my local superstore on Sunday to buy a new chair for my study could not have been more vast.

It took me about 25 minutes to reach the car park and a further ten to jostle my way to the very back of the queue to get into the store itself. For a moment, I almost lost the will to shop. Did I really want the 'Love' swivel chair (with floral cover) that I had coveted in the catalogue at any price (even [pounds sterling]35)?

As I shuffled forward there was something about the look of resignation on the faces of my fellow shoppers that reminded me exactly what it was that made this country great - Sweden, that is.

Who else could have thought up the concept of Democratic Design and managed to sell it - without any assistance, after-sales service or gift wrapping - to a nation of shopkeepers (the British)?

Perhaps, I thought, as I tagged onto a long line of people waiting at one of the infrequent computer points where, on a good day (but never on a Sunday) you might be able to find someone to tell you if your 'Love' swivel chair was in stock, we have taken to this whole ghastly experience because of our national aptitude for queuing.

Whatever the truth, I was sick of the number of people who regard a trip to IKEA as a perfect family day out.

Babies were hung round necks, pushed along in buggies or shoved in trolleys, while older children dodged in and out of the crowded walkways (the Ball Park was full with a 45-minute wait for a place) as if they were on a day trip to the zoo.

And in one corner of the soft furnishings area an elderly lady - clearly overcome by the rising temperature - had fallen asleep on a Stromstad sofa.

Getting into IKEA is such an effort of will that many people, having arrived, never get any further than the cafe.

It's easy to understand why, because before long I, too, became curiously attracted to the one thing in the store that was always in stock, didn't come in a flat pack and required no complicated assembly procedure - meatballs. …