Inside the World’s Largest IKEA Store

There has been so much buzz about IKEA making its way here in the Philippines. Such buzz dates back all the way to 2016, when the Swedish retail giant announced plans to establish a branch in the country. There was also a great deal of speculation as to where IKEA will have its first branch until it was revealed in 2018 that the chosen site would be at the SM Mall of Asia complex.

It goes to show that even before it opened, there was a great deal of excitement for IKEA coming to the Philippines. As far as this Urban Roamer can tell, the last time something like this was felt was when H&M announced its first PH store which was eventually inaugurated in the then-newly opened SM Megamall Mega Fashion Hall (AKA Building D) in 2014.

For a home and furniture retail store, which is a niche kind of retail store that does not have as much of a following as a clothing store, the level of renown IKEA has achieved since it first opened in 1958 is a remarkable achievement. And for a people who has very much valued the idea of home, Filipinos became enamored with IKEA as the anticipation continued to grow.

MOA Square and the view of Marina Way at the bottom street level

Fast forward to November 25, 2021, five years after the initial announcement, IKEA finally opens in the Philippines, located at the new MOA Square, an extension of sorts of SM Mall of Asia built specifically to be IKEA’s home, alongside other retail establishments as well.

Taking advantage of IKEA’s presence in the building, many of the tenant stores at MOA Square are in the home niche

MOA Square is about 8 storeys tall, 3 of which are retail spaces occupied by IKEA, which serves as the building’s flagship tenant. At 65,000 square meters, it is also by far the largest IKEA store in the world, beating out the previous record-holder which is the IKEA store in Gwangmyeong near Seoul, South Korea.

At the time of my visit, due to the ongoing pandemic and as a way to control the expected crowds coming in to satisfy the initial curiosity, visits to IKEA will require a prior online booking so you can’t just drop by and enter immediately. Fortunately, the entry process itself is seamless as all is smooth sailing once you get in. However, as I was writing this entry, prior booking is no longer required and you can visit anytime as long as you are fully-vaccinated.

Once inside, you are directed first to go to the topmost retail floor where you are led to a maze of showcase rooms featuring IKEA products in different settings such as the living room, bedroom, kitchen, etc. followed by the massive area of furniture of all shapes and sizes that are available. The distance and the path may not be something you may mind as you check out the furniture items there but from this roamer’s experience, you will realize how overwhelming the floor is that you will find yourself getting lost in the process.

This floor is also home to IKEA’s famed Swedish restaurant which serves the famed IKEA Swedish meatballs. The restaurant is reminiscent of the school/office dining area where you pick up the food as you go along or be served by the food you chose.

The floor below the furniture/showcase and restaurant area is also massive and can be more confusing to navigate as this floor is known as the marketplace where one can find smaller non-furniture items for sale. Chances are, if you don’t navigate this area thoroughly, you might miss out on the items you might be looking for.

The Circular Hub, where slightly damaged goods are sold at a lower price

It also does not help that this area does not provide a more helpful map that shows where more specific items may be located. For example, while the area has the sign that shows where the “dining” section is, it would probably be more helpful if there are signs showing the areas where the cookware or kitchen equipment are located. The lack of roaming staff in the floor did not help as well. At the very least, there could have been personnel placed at specific areas just like the floor above where shoppers can approach anytime they need help.

Despite the shortcomings, IKEA is a wonderful place to visit especially for someone who is getting more into home improvement and decoration stuff. I am looking to replace some furniture in the coming weeks/years and IKEA provides a great deal for the furniture I’m looking for. Even if the furniture has to be assembled on my end or if there is a fee for having people assemble it, I pretty much enjoy the thrill of building them to life so to speak. If not for IKEA, I would not have discovered the benefits of having a pegboard in my home office and all the things I can put on there.

Everything in IKEA is self-service, even in buying the furniture which is sold in parts. So it’s important to take note of the furniture name and code at the showcase level because you will need it when you buy it at the marketplace level.
IKEA Swedish cafe just outside the counter area is a good place to cool down after a tiring day navigating the store’s massive shopping space

Here’s hoping to see IKEA in more places across the country in the years to come. Personally, I hope there will be an IKEA that is located near the east where I’m based. An IKEA in Visayas and Mindanao would be very nice as well.

Acknowledgements as well to and Wikipedia

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