We’re back in Beijing after spending some weeks in the UK, and when I was unpacking I decided the time had come to tackle the lack of bookshelf space in our apartment.
I’m sure you know Billy (you probably have at least one Billy in your home if not more) it is THE best-selling bookcase in the world. Since it was designed in 1979 over 50 MILLION Billies have been sold, and if you lined them up end-to-end they would probably stretch from the north to south pole and back again with several to spare. And as IKEA are churning them out at the rate of 3.1 million each year eventually they will end up reaching to the moon.
So it was off to Beijing’s one and only branch of IKEA. The Chinese name for IKEA is Yi Jia Jia Ju (宜家家具) but most people just call it yíjiā” (宜家) which is pronounced ee-gee-ah and which roughly translates as ‘affordable home’. China now has 11 IKEA stores and plans to have 18 by 2015.
Now I consider myself something of an IKEA afficionado, this year I have shopped in IKEA on three different continents – in Scotland and London, in San Francisco and in Beijing. What is remarkable is how absolutely identical they are in every way. The exterior is the same, the products are the same, the layout is much the same (doesn’t it bug you that IKEA makes you go to the top of the store and work your way down when you know that whatever you have come in to buy is on the ground floor?) but the stores in China have one major difference – their customers.
When you go into IKEA here in Beijing (or anywhere else in China) you soon notice that all the beds on display seem to
Young women pose in front of suitably modern backgrounds for their boyfriends to photograph them, and the senior citizens congregate in the restaurant area where a lively lonely-hearts club is well established.
The stores offer free coffee to anyone who has an IKEA Family loyalty card, and this has meant an influx of elderly singles who come in as soon as the doors open, bringing their own snacks (no Swedish meatballs for them!) – the company management seem incredibly laid-back about all this, despite their security guards sometimes having to break-up serious altercations which have arisen when two old gents are both chatting up the same lady!
You won’t be surprised to learn that in this country which has faked everything from Rolex watches to Burberry raincoats, someone has faked an IKEA store. A whole enormous fake IKEA, the effort beggars belief. It is in the city of Kunming which is in Yunnan province in the far south.
Oh well, they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!