From a customer’s perspective, it ain’t pretty. The Truth About IKEA, a new book by Johan Stenebo, has been a bestseller in his native Sweden and is now available on Amazon’s Kindle.
Stenebo worked at the Swedish furniture giant from 1988 to 2008 in a variety of roles from product development to management, and he is a former assistant to the group’s 84-year-old billionaire founder Ingvar Kamprad.
When he left the company on New Year’s Day 2009, he said a “new truth” about his employer saw the light of day. In other words, he was finally free to say what he really thought about Kamprad and reveal the tricks of the trade.
Ahead of the book’s U.S. publication this fall, Stenebo spoke to Pay Dirt and revealed his top five tricks of the trade.
1. Never take the shopping bags.
IKEA’s famous yellow and blue bags are almost identical to those at Best Buy. They are there to entice you to shop more than you need. “Never, ever pick one up,” Stenebo says. “That is my single most important piece of advice.”
2. Beware of open-the-wallet items.
Who doesn’t need a toilet brush or a nightlight? These are the kinds of items that appear as soon as you walk into most IKEA stores. “They have a price that no one can withstand,” he says. Once you buy one, you have “opened your wallet” and are more likely to buy more.
3. The cheap, end-of-display item.
This could be a cheap sofa too tacky to put in your home, so you choose the more expensive sofa right next to it instead, believing you did so independently. “The price impression of the first sofa contaminates your view on the product you bought,” Stenebo says. “You walk away thinking the store is still cheap.”
4. Know the hot-hot-hot spot.
This is the most frequented area in each part of the store where retailers mount their fancy displays: cash desks, the entrance, the end of that center aisle where all the essentials are sold. In IKEA, it’s likely to be a comfortable open corner where customers have space to rest. “That’s the hot-hot-hot spot and that’s where retailers put their products they want to get rid of,” he says. If a store is desperate to get rid something, there may be a good reason why.
5. Get a grasp on why you shop.
Stenebo advises against comfort shopping and has an exercise to help prevent it: “Put all the stuff from your wardrobe that you bought within the last 24-month period that you haven’t worn in the last year, lay them on your bed and calculate the amount of money you spent on them.”
Finally, one more question:
How has Stenebo chosen to furnish his own home in Stockholm? “My apartment has stuff from my parents and grandparents,” he says. “But I also have got quite a lot of items from IKEA. I’m still a real IKEA fan.” Even for this skeptical former employer, the furniture giant’s strategy appears to work.