COMMENT: Ikea is coming, and consumers have reacted to the news like the well-behaved lab rats we've been conditioned to be. People are desperate to know where the store will be located so they can get there asap with their sleeping bags and camp out to be first through the door when it opens.
There's a goodly portion of cultural cringe in all this. Finally, we get to be like the 38 countries that already have Ikea. Also, the company is Swedish. What could possibly go wrong if something is from Sweden? One word: Abba.
Be careful what you wish for, New Zealand. Most readers won't have furnished an entire house from Ikea. I have, so for once I know what I'm talking about.
It happened in Australia in the late 80s, for reasons I won't go into, but the lessons and just one bread knife remain with me to this day. Things may have changed since then. For all I know, today's Ikea products are durable and long-lasting. The company itself certainly is.
There are many reasons for its success. Some nice, sleek Scandy design, to be sure. A massive, glossy catalogue, revised annually, that shows everything to sparkly advantage. A store layout that's a master-class in consumer psychological warfare – resistance is futile. It's why people use words like beguiling and seductive to describe the Ikea shopping experience.
The product range is huge. You can buy something as big as an entire kitchen – such as the highly adaptable Tingsryd or the rustic natural wood Torhamn. Or you can just pick up a cutlery set, such as the stylish Tillagd or the elegant Behagfull. Whatever you choose, you can be confident it will have a quirky, unpronounceable name.
Then there's the meatballs. The trouble with most home interior shopping is that it's very low in protein. While many people know that Ikea is a home furnishing megastore, fewer are aware that a core component of the business is the sale of Swedish meatballs. There is Kottbullar, the classic meat version, plus Kycklingkottbullar (chicken) or Gronsaksbullar (vegetarian).
Creative names have always been a feature of Ikea. In 2013, for instance, it was revealed that their word for "horsemeat" was "meatballs". Equine content was found in a batch of meatballs labelled as beef and pork that had been sent to 13 countries.
Not that this put anyone off. The company sells two million meatballs a day in its 340 stores.
Around a third of customers visit Ikea mainly for the food. Of course, if they happen to be beguiled or seduced into picking up a Trova storage system for the kids' room or a Micke desk for the home office, while they are there, the company won't object.
One of the traditional reasons for Ikea's popularity has been that its products are cheap. At least, they are cheap if they are being bought near where they are made and where economies of scale come into play. That's not the case in Australia, and it's not likely here. However the idea of cheapness is so connected with the brand in the market's mind that shoppers will look at a 24-piece cutlery set, priced at the equivalent of $64 in UK Ikea, and marvel that such an item can be produced at such a low cost.
The naysayers are having a bray too, of course. Fears have been aroused over the survival of The Warehouse (where, by the way, 24 pieces of cutlery will cost you considerably less, but the meatballs are nothing to write home about). There's irony. This is the same Warehouse whose stores squat in small towns the length of the country alongside empty shops they drove out of business.
But, if another international brand homogenising our style, blanding our surroundings and sucking money our of our pockets for things we don't need is the answer to our problems, then we're in luck.