I visited one of Ikea’s new mini ‘plan and order’ stores, and it felt like a tiny version of Home Depot – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

I visited one of Ikea’s new mini ‘plan and order’ stores, and it felt like a tiny version of Home Depot

Ikea opened one of its new, smaller “plan-and-order” stores in Arlington, Virginia in August.

Alex Bitter/Insider

Ikea is embarking on a $2 billion expansion of its US operations.Part of Ikea’s strategy is a new, smaller store for shoppers redesigning whole rooms.I visited one of these new stores to see what it’s like to shop there.

Ikea is spending billions to expand in the US, and a big part of its plans rest on small stores.

Most shoppers probably think of huge warehouses filled with everything from kitchen towels to coffee tables to Swedish meatballs when they think of the retailer. But in a $2 billion initiative it announced earlier this year, Ikea said that it would open nine “plan-and-order” stores in the US.

Each store is a fraction of the size of the Ikea you’re probably used to. While an Ikea warehouse can take up around 350,000 square feet, plan-and-order stores are a tiny fraction of that. The store I visited for this article, located in Arlington, Virginia, is about 5,000 square feet.

The plan-and-order stores are designed around model kitchens, bedrooms, and other complete packages of appliances and decor that shoppers can buy for rooms in their homes. It’s a bit like walking through one of their famous catalogs. There aren’t any cafeterias serving cheap lunches or extensive selections of picture frames, as you’d find at a conventional Ikea warehouse.

Instead, if you see something you like, you’ll have to order it for delivery. Ikea calls the stores “showrooms” and staffs them with employees it says can answer questions or even plan a remodel.

I wanted to see what these mini-Ikea stores are like, so I headed to Arlington.

The nearest Ikea plan-and-order store to me is located in the Pentagon City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.
Pentagon Centre is one of the shopping complexes that draws people to the Pentagon City area.

Alex Bitter/Insider

The area is home to lots of shopping options, including a Costco, as well as Amazon’s HQ2, so there’s lots of foot traffic. There’s also a Metro station just up the block.

The entrance is located inside a shopping mall.
The Pentagon City store is one of multiple plan-and-order stores that Ikea has planned for the Washington DC area.

Alex Bitter/Insider

The signage outside of the main entrance suggests that this isn’t a normal Ikea.

A sign outside of the entrance promoted discounted delivery.
Ikea is trying to win over shoppers passing by with this sign advertising free delivery.

Alex Bitter/Insider

This store opened in August, and the sign promised free delivery on some orders if shoppers sign up for Ikea’s loyalty program. At its regular stores, standard delivery starts at $19.

Once inside, I saw that I was going to learn some Swedish vocabulary, just like at other Ikea stores.
Ikea is well-known for its use of Swedish terms in-store, especially for naming merchandise.

Alex Bitter/Insider

This sign just inside the entrance clarifies that customers can plan purchases for delivery at this location.

A fully-furnished kitchen awaited as I headed into the store itself.
Kitchens at Ikea’s plan-and-order store felt like walking into someone’s home.

Alex Bitter/Insider

It felt like walking into the first section of a normal Ikea store, which is where you find complete rooms for sale.

This whole kitchen, for example, runs $10,409 for the countertops, appliances, and hardware like cabinets and the sink.

There were also smaller furnishings for sale.
Regular Ikea stores allow customers to pick up kitchenware and other goods on a level below the showroom.

Alex Bitter/Insider

Everything had a price label featuring the Swedish term for the item, such as this set of dinnerware, which cost $19.99.

You can buy these smaller items on their own, but Ikea will have to ship them to you.
Everything in the store was labeled with a price and name.

Alex Bitter/Insider

I would’ve bought one of these carbon steel frying pans if they had some on hand at the store, but an employee confirmed that I could only order it for delivery.

At publication time, Ikea’s website said that the pan was out of stock at its main warehouse but could be bought from a store “in combination with a bigger article shipped by truck.” Delivery on small orders normally “starts at $6,” according to the website.

The focus at this store was definitely on the big-ticket items.
Sinks, drawer handles, and countertops were available in different styles.

Alex Bitter/Insider

You could buy this stainless steel sink for $285, for example.

There were room setups for a variety of budgets, such as this kitchen.
Everything from the appliances to the countertops is available for purchase as a package.

Alex Bitter/Insider

It’s Spartan, but there’s a mini-fridge, portable conduction burner, and a sink, among other basic elements of a kitchen.

There was an emphasis on how affordable many of the room setups are.
Ikea has a reputation among shoppers as an affordable place to buy furniture and home goods.

Alex Bitter/Insider

The aforementioned kitchen costs less than $2,000.

Toward the back of the store, there was a limited selection of smaller items in-stock that you could buy.
Ikea’s plan-and-order store contained a small fraction of the items that its normal stores do.

Alex Bitter/Insider

Most of these items were tool sets, lightbulbs, and other items that you might need if you were ordering a complete room at this store.

There were a few quirky, cheap items like you’d find in a much larger Ikea store.
This phone holder was one of the smaller items you could buy at the plan-and-order store.

Alex Bitter/Insider

This wire phone holder would set you back $2.99.

As I wandered around, this Ikea store began to feel more like a Home Depot, Lowe’s, or another home improvement store.
The cheapest sink faucet for sale was just $29.

Alex Bitter/Insider

There was a respectable selection of faucets in case you wanted to customize one of the room setups or buy one on its own.

These countertop samples especially reminded me of home improvement stores.
At the time Insider visited the store, there was a sale on countertops.

Alex Bitter/Insider

There was a range of styles and materials to choose from.

There were a few employees in the store when I visited on a weekday afternoon.
Advertising around the store featured the prices of different products and rooms.

Alex Bitter/Insider

You can make an appointment with an employee to talk about a renovation project, according to Ikea.

“The all-new IKEA Arlington Plan and order point will allow customers to meet with professional consultants who can help them optimize their living and working spaces,” Raquel Ely, Market Manager for IKEA U.S., said in August when this store opened.

A few touchscreens were stationed around the store to provide information on the products.
There were also screens with information about other products as well as the Ikea-branded credit card.

Alex Bitter/Insider

This screen provides details about Ikea’s storage and wardrobe offerings.

There were also reminders throughout the store that items could be purchased for delivery.
Shoppers could scan a QR code to learn more.

Alex Bitter/Insider

I was amused by the plug here for an assembly service, given the reputation that Ikea furniture has for being tough to assemble. (Some people even hire gig workers to do it instead of assembling furniture themselves.)

It wasn’t all kitchens, though. This store also sells mattresses…
Once again, there was a screen providing information about the mattresses.

Alex Bitter/Insider

Pillows and comforters were also on offer.

…as well as wardrobes and other storage…
One storage option was evidently good for organizing anything from shirts to skateboards.

Alex Bitter/Insider

The wardrobes all contained clothes, accessories, and other items to provide a better sense of what they might look like in-use.

…and full bedroom setups.
There were about four furnished rooms in this Ikea location.

Alex Bitter/Insider

If you’re one of those people who likes to lay down in the beds at Ikea, this smaller store has you covered.

I had fun exploring the storage section, particularly the wardrobes.
There was signage in some parts of the store encouraging customers to interact with the furniture.

Alex Bitter/Insider

I couldn’t help but take this sticker’s advice.

If I was renovating a house or condo, this would be a great place to find furniture.
Displays were fully stocked so that you weren’t just staring at empty furniture.

Alex Bitter/Insider

This set of drawers inside a wardrobe made me wonder why I don’t have something like this.

I was also impressed by this wallpaper featuring Benjamin Franklin blowing a bubble with bubble gum.
The wallpaper in every other room in the store was mild by comparison.

Alex Bitter/Insider

It wasn’t clear whether you could order it at the store, but I did find it afterward on Etsy.

On your way out of the store, you get one more Swedish lesson.
It took me about 15 minutes to see the entire store, and I was moving at a slow pace.

Alex Bitter/Insider

“Hej da” means “See you soon.”

Overall, Ikea’s plan-and-order store seemed like a decent place to shop, but I was a little confused by this particular location.
I left the store and headed outside, confused.

Alex Bitter/Insider

I wasn’t expecting the typical Ikea experience, but I wasn’t quite sure who this exact location is supposed to serve.

On the one hand, it’s located in an area with lots of foot traffic, particularly people who have money to spend.
An artist’s rendering of Amazon’s completed HQ2 in Arlington.

Amazon/Arlington County

Mallgoers, Amazon employees, Pentagon workers, and commuters are all likely to pass by this store.

On the other, many of the people who live in Pentagon City rent apartments, limiting the appeal of this store.
A window display at the small Ikea store really highlighted the company’s reusable shopping bags.

Alex Bitter/Insider

You’re probably not looking to overhaul your kitchen countertops if you’re renting a place in one of the nearby apartment buildings.

This fancy new apartment building just opened right next to the store, for instance.
This apartment complex used to be part of a Costco parking lot.

Alex Bitter/Insider

Perhaps shoppers coming from farther away who own houses deeper into Virginia will stop by this new location, though many of them might be tempted to just drive to an Ikea warehouse.

If I ever buy a home and embark on a renovation, visiting one of these stores would be useful.
A portable burner, part of the cheapest kitchen set in the store, sells individually for $69.99.

Alex Bitter/Insider

Until then, I’ll stick to the two full-sized Ikea stores in the DC area.

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