Ready…set… run! The doors have just opened at an Ikea furniture store in east Beijing. Even on a weekday morning, this store is packed.
In just a few minutes, customers spread out across every corner of the four-storey sales area. It’s clear that most know the store well.
“This is a store of the people,” smiles Tana, a 53-year-old university professor clutching a desk lamp in Ikea’s lighting section. “They have all the things ordinary people use. Every time I come here, I stay for the whole day and have lunch here.”
In China, Ikea isn’t just a home furnishing depot – a place to buy what you need and leave. Many here treat it like a furniture-filled theme park, a place to spend hours taking every product for a spin.
“It takes me five or six hours to drive here and I’ll stay for at least eight hours,” explains Mr Han, a young man who drove here from Handan, a city in neighbouring Hebei province.
But the slog is worth it, he says. “I like how they give us the real experience of using their products.”
There is no other store in China quite like Ikea, where customers are welcome to spend hours lounging on every sofa and bed in the store, or thoroughly testing the toys available in the children’s section.