Everything you need to know for IKEA’s opening weekend

Company’s 41st American store opens in midtown St. Louis

A rendering of the new IKEA store at 1 IKEA Way in the Cortex community in midtown St. Louis.

A rendering of the new IKEA store at 1 IKEA Way in the Cortex community in midtown St. Louis.

By Gloria Lloyd

IKEA opened its long-awaited St. Louis store Wednesday, and the Call visited the store in advance to let you know some do’s and don’ts for opening weekend and beyond.

The St. Louis IKEA is the Swedish company’s 41st American store, but in key ways, it is unique compared to its counterparts across the country. At 380,000 feet, the St. Louis store is one of the largest in the nation, and one of the few to be located in a city rather than in the suburbs.

Before the opening, St. Louis was the largest metropolitan area in the country without an IKEA. The store is on a 21-acre site, 1 IKEA Way, in the Cortex Innovation Community in the city’s midtown just off Interstate 64 at the intersection of Vandeventer and Forest Park avenues. Unlike suburban locations, half the store’s parking is underground.

The Call’s tour guide on our sneak preview of the store, customer relations manager Cathy Gregorio, gave our readers some inside tips on how to shop at IKEA for those who are completely new to the store or have only shopped online.

The St. Louis IKEA’s energy use will be self-sustainable by 2020 since it has more than 4,000 solar panels installed on the roof.

Any IKEA is massive, and the St. Louis store is larger than the typical store in America. Be prepared for a lot of walking through showcases to find what you want, and you can pick up a shopping list, pencil, tape measure, store map, catalog, shopping cart, big yellow shopping bag or shopping stroller in the lobby and throughout the store.

The store discourages the full-size carts in the furniture showcases since they make it difficult to maneuver for customers, but they’re allowed on the lower levels.

Once you’re in the store, you can either bring your own bag or purchase a reusable big blue bag from IKEA, but the store does not give out any plastic bags. You can borrow big yellow bags and trolleys to carry your purchases through the store and the Showroom, where the bigger carts are discouraged.

Whether you park in the parking lots surrounding the store or the underground parking garages, you’ll take an escalator up to the store’s top level. The Showroom is where you’ll find IKEA furniture and appliances — sofas, chairs, bookshelves, dressers, beds, closets accessories and full bed suites. The company encourages customers to climb on beds and otherwise test out and feel the merchandise in the Showroom to figure out what works best for them.

“We want people to be able to come in, sit on the furniture, and get an idea of what they want,” Gregorio said. “Sometimes people come in and point to an entire room and say, ‘That’s the one for me.'”

Customers can also navigate their way around using the store’s mobile app and create shopping lists in advance. If you hand your list to an associate, he or she can help you find what you need.

The company gave away $399 Ektorp sofas to the first 41 people in line to get in on Wednesday in honor of its 41st store opening, and some customers camped out for days to get the couch, which is the company’s bestseller.

“Some people think that IKEA’s very modern, but that’s not all we are,” Gregorio said. “We want to appeal to different home styles.”

The 450-seat restaurant offers the company’s famous Swedish meatballs, along with veggie versions that are vegan, which will change seasonally based on vegetables available, the restaurant’s chef told the Call. Gregorio recommends the herring.

The lower-level Marketplace is where you can find cookware and accessories, and grocery items can be found after the cashier stations on the lower level past the Self-Serve Furniture Area.

Children 37 to 54 inches tall can be dropped off at a supervised children’s play area, Småland, that looks like a Swedish forest and farmhouse with a ball pit. Children can play for 45 minutes at a time for free, and IKEA Family loyalty program members can get 30 extra free minutes (see below for the other perks from the store’s loyalty program). Parents can recheck in the child if there’s not a line of other kids waiting to get into the play area.

Some IKEA products can be purchased online and delivered to your house, but the company does not offer a ship-to-store option, and many of the products can only be found in the store.

The retailer says it keeps its prices low by flat-packing its furniture, which customers pick up on their way out the door and then assemble at home themselves. If an item has a red price tag, it needs to be picked up from the Self-Serve Furniture Area. The red tag shows what separate pieces need to be picked up, and workers are available if a customer runs into trouble finding any items, which are flat-packed for easier transport.

The price tag also shows the dimensions of the furniture, where it was made and how to care for it.

The company also offers delivery and assembly for a flat rate per shopping trip within a half-hour drive, no matter how much furniture you purchase.

By joining the free IKEA Family loyalty program, customers can get discounts on some items in the Marketplace and free coffee and hot tea on every shopping trip. Customers can sign up online and pick up their card at an in-store kiosk or just sign up in the store.

To find even steeper discounts, check out the section next to the cashier stations that includes returns and other half-assembled or even fully assembled merchandise at half off the regular prices.

Keep your receipt, and returns of even fully assembled merchandise can be made within 90 days if you’re not satisfied.