IKEA – with Chinese characteristics

Posted on August 6, 2012

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Anyone trying to get to grips with modern China could do worse than head to IKEA in Beijing on a Saturday afternoon.

Not only do they have one here (actually, they have 10 across a variety of cities with at least 2 more planned in the next couple of years) but, as might be expected in an economy that is still expanding at a rate that would be unheard of in Europe*, it’s packed to the rafters every weekend as China becomes another success story for the Scandinavian sensation.

Actually, it’s packed in every direction as people fully embrace the concept – and adapt it slightly.

I’ve seen people taking advantage of the sofa section for a rest before, but here whole families kick back and relax for hours.  Not only do they lie on the beds, but kids, parents and grandparents alike were getting under the covers and showed no sign of necessarily getting back out again.  If the kitchen units had been connected to any kind of gas or electricity supply I have no doubts that they too would have been put to full use!

With so many people beginning to experience things like IKEA for the first time, it’s no surprise to see it embraced so fully.  Even the hotdogs and meatballs were going down a storm.

They love it, and they can afford it.  And with so many people living in cramped tower blocks across ever taller cities, the whole concept is undoubtedly a match made in heaven.

In fact, the only things that didn’t seem to grasp the attention of the average shopper were, perhaps unsurprisingly, the arrows on the floor.  Duly ignored, the usual Swedish order is here more akin to a cross between the ring road round the Arc De Triomphe and Mumbai – or, any Beijing intersection, for that matter.

IKEA, with Chinese characteristics, you might say…

Spending money on your home has long been an indicator of health in an economy and if scenes here are anything to go by, the slowdown in China has been grossly exaggerated.

However, I did spot one economic indicator that might worry a China that is becoming ever more affluent and concerned that rising wage costs will see them lose out to competition from even cheaper countries abroad.

My nice new lamp?  Made in India…

*despite talking of slowing growth (predicted at 8.2% or so, compared with 8.9% for the first three months last year) the expansion is still beyond anything that would be considered even normal in more developed economies – should the shoppers ever get out of the beds and make it all the way to the tills, of course!
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Posted in: Beijing, China, Economy