Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hostel in flat-pack

There are certain things you expect to find when you expect to find when you go to IKEA. Flat pack furniture is certainly one of them. Stuff for the kitchen, lighting, bedding, Swedish meatballs in their cafe, are all other elements you would also expect. A hostel when you haven’t been able to finish your shopping that night... Wait a minute.

Yup, that’s right, I found out through
Jaime Diskin’s blog this week that IKEA Oslo had opened a hostel in their branch. A trial for one week, the store in Norway set up the “alternative hostel” in one of their two warehouses between the 23rd and 27th of July. The ‘IKEA Hostel’ had the traditional set-up of dormitory-style beds as well as family rooms, a luxury suite where customers could enjoy breakfast in bed and the pièce de résistance – the bridal suite, complete with a round bed and a hanging chandelier. Best of all for the customers, it was all free and they also received dinner and breakfast free of charge in the usual IKEA canteen.

Unsurprisingly, the company received over 1,200 applications for this trial from people wanting to stay in the hostel. Apparently in Norway, shoppers see the IKEA shopping experience as the ultimate tourist attraction, with 900, 000 visit IKEA during the summer holidays in Norway. “It’s more than one of the biggest attractions in Norway, the Holmenskollen ski jump gets in one year” claims company spokesman Frode Ullebust. Impressive indeed.

But back to the hostel itself. Visitors were able to check in at 10pm and check-out was 11am, one hour after the shop itself opened, therefore guests could expect to be woken up by the shoppers should they have slept in. And when they were leaving, they were able to take their bedsheets home, bathrobes with the IKEA Hostel logo on and slippers “so they won’t get cold at night.”

On the surface the experiment seems to have been a great success, with shoppers from all over the world staying in the hostel over the week it was open. Many did not get much sleep however, electing instead to watch the night workers stack the shelves or do a bit of midnight shopping.

IKEA want to implement the idea in all of its stores to varying degrees and this experiment in July was the first test run. Kinks they wish to iron out before rolling the concept out to every store include the lighting in the showroom which never turns off completely and also the problem that much of the stocking of the store takes place around 4am. However, it seems that this last ‘problem’ was an attraction in itself for some visitors’ stays.

I for one would love a stay in one.

And the whole idea, according to spokesman Christen Roehnedak, came from the customers themselves.

And why is all this a reason to love marketing you ask? Well, build up a strong enough brand, it will in turn produce strong customer loyalty. Your customers will then stay true to your brand and be keen to try whatever new products or services you offer, no matter how left field they may seem. Especially if they, as in this case, have suggested the product themselves. So I guess I could also fit in one additional reason into this post, which will bring the total up to 11 so far - Client feedback can provide you with new ideas and opportunities you may never have thought of yourself. The publicity enjoyed by this venture wouldn’t be too bad either...

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