April 29, 2006

Furniture Black Ship, IKEA, landed in Japan

Finally a furniture retail giant, IKEA, landed Japan again. I had a short field trip on the first weekend after their opening. After two hours stuck by incredible traffic, I could get in the, Swedish colored, huge blue and yellow storage. Overall, their retail system is the same as what I experienced in the US. At upstairs, check the displayed furniture by following the one-way-route, at the end, get a coffee brake before going down. At down stairs, walking starts from small kitchen utensils, it leads us to the storage area containing amount of packages stuck up to the high ceiling. Pretty much the same shopping process that I experienced. After checking Japan IKEA, one question came up to me: Will IKEA be successful in Japan market?? What makes their business unique can sum up with one point, low price relying on customer’s DIY from delivery to assembly. Honestly, their product quality cannot satisfy this market which is filled up with exported European furniture everywhere. So, IKEA’s current advantage is its cost rather than its quality. My friend from Denmark was saying “IKEA offers something for those who have no choice to buy expensive European furniture.” But they need to change their business strategy in Japan because we already have an easy access to relatively cheap furniture such as Muji, Nitori, or catalogue/online store. Also we strictly judge the quality of product. So, I doubt that only cheap price can attract enough customers for purchasing their products and let them motivate to assemble by themselves. These are the keys if IKEA can be successful; innovative idea-oriented-product, Scandinavian sophisticated design, and unique shopping experience. If IKEA can make this dream comes true with cheap price, they will be able to defeat the other domestic competitors. I really liked when I first time find paper made free tape measure, now Muji has the same offering, and nursing room at the entrance hall. These ideas, which have nothing to do with adding extra cost to the customer, are having a key of this SPA’s success. My curiosity about their future comes from the situation that I am also working for exporting American product into Japanese market. They have a plan opening two more stores at Kohoku(Yokohama) and Kobe.

5min. walking from Minami Funabashi St. (Recommend to drive there...)

ゴールデンウィークの初めついにIKEAが日本に再上陸しました。早速、開店初の週末、社会化見学に行って見ることに。2時間余りの渋滞に巻き込まれながらも、ようやくスウェーデン色に染まった黄色と青の巨大な倉庫にたどり着きました。概して、お店のシステムは、アメリカで経験したそれと同じでした。最初上の階に上がり、巡回路に従いディスプレイされた家具を品定め。路の行き着く先は、簡単な軽食の取れるレストランエリア。下に下りると、ルートはキッチン雑貨などの小物エリアから始まり、上階に展示されていた家具がコンパクトに梱包された箱が天井まで積み上げられた倉庫のエリアに通じています。ディスプレイ・デザイン、商品カテゴリーのレイアウト、客の動線設計、全てが私がアメリカで見たそれと全く同じでした。見学を終え、ひとつの疑問が湧いてきました。IKEAは日本で成功できるのか?IKEAがIKEA足りうる理由はひとつ、配送から組み立てまで消費者に委ねたDo It Yourselfによる安い値段、です。いたるところでヨーロッパ製の高級家具を目にすることのできる日本においては、正直IKEA製品の質は到底消費者の満足を満たすものではありません。現状IKEAの武器は、質ではなく安い値段ということになります。あるデンマークの友人はこう言っていました。「高級ヨーロッパ家具に手が届かない層が家具を求めるところがIKEAだよ。」IKEAは単に外と同じ売り方を日本に持ち込むのではなく、異なる戦略を求められるでしょう。だって、安さを売りにする家具屋ならすでに、無印良品、ニトリ、カタログ・インターネット通販などより消費者の手の届くところにすでに存在するんだから。つまり安さだけが、客をIKEAの店舗に呼び込み、自ら家具を組み立てさせるという動機にはつながらないと思います。IKEAが成功できるかという鍵は他のところにあります。革新的なアイデアの詰まった製品、北欧の洗練されたデザイン、他にはないショッピング体験、等。それらに安さが加われば、IKEAは競合他社をおしのけ真の日本上陸を果たせるのです。だって初めてのIKEA体験で目からうろこだったのは、家具の値段ではなく、店内に無料で置かれた紙のメジャー・テープ(今では無印も同じものを用意している。)だったり、入り口すぐに設置された託児室だったり、そんなアイデアにあるんだから。決して商品のコストに跳ね返ることはないけれど、買い物の行為自体を楽しくさせてくれるこんなアイデアが、IKEAらしさなのではと思うのです。しかし、IKEAの行き先が気になってしかたがないのは、自分も「アメリカ製」を日本に持ち込むという難業の一端を担っているからです。今後IKEAは、港北(横浜近郊)、神戸とさらに2店舗オープン予定です。


  1. Hi, Chu.

    Two hours traffic means IKEA must be successfull in Japan.

    The poors like me are willing to buy from IKEA, but I don know how Japanese consumer will see it.

    Some people are totally price insenstive when they pursuit the quality. I will see how IKEA will handle this.

    See you, Chu.

  2. Hum.. coz the thing what I am worried is Japanese people tend to like anything new. When I checked Banana Republic at Ginza, it was nothing special, not attractive in a sense of uniqueness of its design, They are selling almost the same products, but their stuff is just pricy than what in the US. Different culture needs different seeds. Hum... Hard to understand Japanese market sense...

  3. That's very interesting, Chu. I'm also interested in how IKEA will be received by Japan since, to me, Japan seems to have above average quality product standards regardless of price. It just may be that IKEA's success and appeal might be rely on an accepted Western cultural perception as "affordabley cool" for the designer and non-designer alike. ?

    Michael (SF)

  4. Hi Michael,

    How's your job going!?!? I want to see your graphic works.
    Interesting comment. We are so much exposed with Western culture for a few decades, but at the same time we have a long history as an island country, which have developed our own culture since the birth of Japan country. So between these realities, there must be a certain contradiction. Unless business strategy of international company takes it into consideration, it may have a difficulty to catch Japanese customers. From a design point of view, Japanese interestingly tends to like white or natural color, but the furnitures that IKEA offres is pretty colorful and some doesn't have an natural color choice. The same thing, the cellphone that now I am working for has two color variations, one is plum and another is white, it's not really my company color, but this has to be a marketing decision to sell it better here in Japan. But I am not so confident if my project launched and get successful, though...