Saturday, August 7, 2010

Foreign retail in the cultural capital

There is nothing like visiting IKEA in Russia.

Actually, I'll be honest. It reminds me of the scene from Veggie Tales' "Madame Blueberry" when the new store appears and the veggies hop along a trail through the woods, until they get to a clearing where a chorus of voices trills "Stuffmart!" and a billboard rises into the clouds.

Since IKEA St. Petersburg is a bit off the beaten trail, there are buses that go there. FREE buses. And we all know that if something's free you have to take it, right? So even though there are some route taxis that go there, everyone squeezes into the free bus. If they don't have a car, that is. Continue/-

If you're stuck without anything to hold on to, you might fly around the bus a bit during those final curves. Then, over the tree/building tops, the tall billboards emerge...IKEA and the MEGA mall. And I can hear the Veggie Tales tune cueing in my head as everyone starts to drool with anticipation of the shopping experience that awaits them.

It's not only the bus that's free. There are also free PENCILS and MEASURING TAPE at the door. After pocketing some of those, we move on and begin our tour. IKEA is a marketing genius, for Russia, at least. Cramped living quarters call for creative solutions, and it's even better if the products are already made with those conditions in mind.

We've taken the kids from the orphanage there on a field trip-yep, it's that fascinating-and then to buy something to make their living quarters a little cozier.

On a recent trip, I overheard a woman sighing over the displays, "Beautiful....but not realistic." She had a point.

I managed to boil all the choices down to a few purchases, and then I went home, bypassing the cafeteria. The Swedish meatballs and the FREE coffee/tea tempt some people (I even almost went for a hot dog), but I was ready for a home-cooked meal.

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