5 Things You Won’t See at IKEA Canada Anymore

No more Swedish meatballs, play spaces or shortcuts.

Ikea Canada - coronavirusPhoto: Courtesy Ikea Canada

IKEA is a mandatory destination for anyone moving into a new home or in need of low-cost napkins and bookshelves. A visit to the Swedish chain usually includes affordable decor, hard-to-pronounce product names, family members of all ages test-driving beds and couches and, of course, Swedish meatballs.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced a reimagination of all public spaces, stores like IKEA have implemented changes like physical distancing measures and rigorous sanitization protocols to keep shoppers and staff safe. I recently visited an IKEA in Toronto and noticed a few significant changes: an intimidatingly long line, a lot fewer children and children’s stations, no diners in the restaurant and cart sanitizing stations. Shoppers also seemed to walk quickly through the showroom, instead of meandering and touching everything, as they normally might.

I spoke to Kristin Newbigging, a representative from IKEA Canada, about the brand’s safety measures and changes to the shopping experience. Here are five things that you won’t see at IKEA Canada anymore.

Ikea Canada - coronavirus social distancingPhoto: Courtesy Ikea Canada

Shortcuts through the showroom

IKEA’s showrooms, where their products are displayed in carefully curated vignettes, were already designed for physical distancing with one-way aisles and tons of signage. “We always had the arrows that you could follow, but we also had a few shortcuts,” says Newbigging. “A lot of those are now blocked off to make sure that we’re able to keep people on that straight-forward journey [through the store].”

Play spaces for kids

To stop the spread of COVID-19 in stores, IKEA has suspended its free in-store childcare service. Småland, the supervised playroom at the entrance of the store where parents could drop their children off while they shopped, is closed for the foreseeable future in order to keep families safe.

Other smaller unsupervised play spaces around the store, which usually featured colouring stations and a variety of toys, have also been removed.

Ikea Canada - coronavirus - bistroPhoto: Courtesy Ikea Canada

Dine-in restaurant service

Unfortunately for fans of IKEA’s famous Swedish meatballs, most stores in Canada have closed their restaurant. Though there are a couple exceptions (IKEA Coquitlam and IKEA Calgary have reopened their restaurants with new food handling processes and limited capacity), most Canadians will have to wait a bit longer to have in-store mashed potatoes, meatballs and lingonberry jam.

Some IKEA stores have reopened their Bistros for quick take-out orders for items like hot dogs and ice cream. IKEA also sells a variety of food products for customers to take home.

Shortages of plants and home office products

Some of IKEA’s products have become massively popular in the last few months as many of us are now working from home. According to Newbigging, there has been a heightened interest in plants as “people want to really bring the outdoors inside during the extended time at home.” Even before the pandemic, plants were very popular and would often sell out early in the day. In fact, during my recent visit, I couldn’t find any plants (real or fake!) for sale.

Similarly, IKEA’s home office line has seen a boom in interest. From desks to chairs to laptop stands, home office supplies have been in high demand as Canadians transitioned from office life to WFH. Fortunately, none of IKEA’s products have been taken off the shelf permanently and the lack of home office products in stock is only temporary.

Shuttle service

A couple of IKEA’s locations (Etobicoke and North York) have a shuttle service that connects the store to local transit hubs, allowing customers without cars to visit the store. Luckily, I was able to drive to the store as shuttle services have been temporarily suspended at both locations for the safety of customers and co-workers.

Next, find out the ways that a visit to Tim Hortons has changed.