[ikea2]You hear the crashing of drums and cymbals, smell hot dogs fresh off the grill, and almost get run over by a mob of people. No, you’re not tailgating on a Saturday morning. You’re shopping at IKEA – where the search for home decorations and furniture has become a party.
The wildly successful chain began with a vision by a young Swedish businessman named Ingvar Kamprad. He opened his first store in 1943 to sell home necessities, such as paperclips and matches to neighbors at reasonable prices. Word of his office-supply concept traveled fast across Europe and business boomed.
Today, IKEA can be found in 29 countries across the world. Products range from bookshelves to twinkle lights, pots and pans to scented candles. This great variety of both basic and fun products has been attracting customers for years and is taking the U.S., and in particular the Midwest, by storm.
“I’ve lived in Massachusetts and New Jersey and been to the stores there,” MSU first-year law student Samir Asthand said. “[IKEA is] huge on the East Coast, and now it’s branching out and getting just as big here in the Midwest. It’s cheap, it’s trendy and it certainly makes your apartment more attractive.”
To say that the store is continuing to gain popularity among Midwest families is an understatement. The chain opened its first Michigan store in Canton this past summer and received an overwhelming response from the public.
“IKEA pretty much took over Canton,” Katie Calille, a Canton resident and journalism junior said. “They had non-stop news coverage on the TV and radio, as well as a countdown leading up to the grand opening. People came from all over Michigan and surrounding states to shop, and many of the hotels in the area were booked. They had tons of police directing traffic out front and it was impossible to drive anywhere near the store because there were people everywhere.”
[cash] Another Canton resident, Marissa Malcolm, was also present at the grand opening. The advertising sophomore describes the store as a real phenomenon that turned her town upside down. She and her family couldn’t wait to go on a shopping spree. “It was a madhouse,” said Malcolm. “The parking lot was huge but totally full. We had to go around about 15 times, but it was worth it. My parents bought tall shelves, shoe organizers, mirrors, picture frames, pillows, and even Swedish meatballs!”
Malcolm said one of the best draws about IKEA is the good food. “The Swedish meatballs are good, but I can’t forget the cinnamon buns!” she said. “Those are the real craze there.”
Shoppers are not only drawn to the aisles of unique inventory, but also to the food court, live music and ball crawl available for young children. It seems the only downfall is that all merchandise is do-it-yourself. Although time consuming and possibly disastrous, few are hesitating to break out the toolbox in exchange for a little Swedish ambience.
“I think that IKEA has changed the way that we shop,” said Calille. “People are very interested in the basic products at a low price and don’t even seem to mind that you have to put some of the bigger pieces together yourself.”
And in the end, for some shoppers, it feels better to put a little work into the piece that will ultimately serve as your bedside table or magazine rack.
“I bought a shelf that I had to put together myself and a tool kit to do it,” said Malcolm. “It comes with all the nails and everything it needs, which is nice. My books were lying all over the place and I needed to organize.”
These students wish there was a store closer to MSU, as do many others who have shopped there to decorate their campus living space. The relatively inexpensive cost of quality goods is a main reason why students and recent graduates are drawn to the store. After spending so much money on tuition, rent and groceries, there isn’t much left over. That’s why IKEA has become a favorite one-stop shop for those who want to jazz up their dorms, houses and apartments.
[stuff]And in an ultra-cool move for the European lifestyle store, IKEA has also outfitted homes for MTV reality shows, including “Sorority Life” and “The Real World”; the latter being well known for its posh homes. This adds an element of glamour to the mix, making shoppers believe that they, too, can live such a fantasy lifestyle.
“When I hear \’IKEA,\’ all I think about is Fight Club,” MSU Law student Aimee Briacombe said, referring to the book – and film based upon it – by Chuck Palahniuk.
Palahniuk, who published Fight Club in 1996, denounced the phenomenon in his work. He challenges the message of global consumerism that the store embodies, and the idea that increased spending coincides with increased happiness and social status.
“You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things that you own, now they own you.” (taken from an excerpt of Fight Club, chapter 5)
This concept of decreased prices and increased buying power has become a fundamental part of mainstream American society. Therefore, IKEA is not only a store – it is a way of life that the United States and the Midwest are obviously embracing.
“I definitely think our society is becoming more materialistic, and that’s a bad thing,” finance sophomore Kristina Worthy said. “We’re buying more products that we want instead of just what we need. However, this could be good for the economy.”
Whether you like the idea of IKEA or not, the truth is, it\’s here to stay. Might as well enjoy the party in Canton for the time being – you can even grab a hot dog if you want.

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