SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Entering Ikea’s latest planning studio in Jurong Point shopping mall is a little like playing The Sims, a video game popular for its theme of emulating life. Homeowners will not get to pick out virtual characters at the design studio — unlike in the game. But like playing it, they will get to visualise, design and fit out a virtual home from scratch.
Ikea’s planning studio, in partnership with Livspace, occupies some 1,033 sq ft on level one of Jurong Point mall (Credit: Ikea, Livspace)
Taking after an Ikea showroom, the retail space mirrors the layout of a 1,033 sq ft, three-room HDB flat. Customers can use their smartphones (or the iPads provided) to scan a QR code in any room, and change out the furniture, fittings and decor, opting from an exhaustive catalogue of Ikea merchandise. As the products are being swapped out on the platform, the cost for the fit-out will also be updated in real-time, providing home-owners with a sense of how much the aesthetics would cost.
The end-product is a collaboration between the Swedish furniture giant and start-up Livspace, an interior and renovations platform first launched in India in 2015. In 2019, Ingka Investments, the venture-capital arm of Ikea parent company Ingka Group, invested an undisclosed sum in Livspace. That same year, Livspace also opened an office and set up operations in Singapore.
The master bedroom in a three-room HDB flat, featuring Ikea’s smart home lighting solution and its Wi-Fi speaker that doubles as a bookshelf (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
Partnership with Livspace
Much like how Ikea is known for its affordable furniture and fittings, the retailer now also wants to dominate the affordable interiors market. In its partnership with Livspace, the renovations start-up will allow for an end-to-end solution to be provided. This ranges from renovation works, fitting out flooring, to opting for the right shade of wall paint.
“Ikea is very good with the furnishing and the furniture side of the story,” shares Janice Ong, Ikea services business leader, but "we don’t do the wet work, we don’t do the tiles.”
Catering to the mass market, interior design and renovation packages for a two-room HDB Build-To-Order (BTO) unit is priced at $9,900; a three-room HDB BTO, at $12,500; and a four-room HDB BTO, at $15,600. In its design packages, rooms can be decked out in different themes, depending on client preferences and quirks.
Timeline-wise, the whole process from design to fruition would take “anywhere from four to six weeks” pre-pandemic, says Ravindran Shanmugam, country head at Livspace Singapore. But right now, with border closures constraining labour supply, this might look more like eight to 10 weeks, he says.
To streamline the process, potential homeowners keen on taking on a renovation and interior design package with Ikea and Livspace will be assigned to just one Livspace interior designer, who will be the same point of contact throughout the whole affair.
Ikea, in partnership with Livspace, offers a full suite of interior design, planning and renovation services (Credit: Ikea, Livspace)
How it all started
The partnership between Ikea and Livspace began in October 2019, when the furniture giant was still in the nascent stages of trialling a workable model for its renovation and interior designs solution. Then, Livspace consultants “were a little bit like gypsies, walking around the stores, trying to find a home” within the Ikea Tampines showroom, keen to speak to any homeowner who appeared interested in renovating and designing their homes, says Ong.
A sweet spot was eventually found within the dining and kitchen area. “You realised that once they hit the dining area, customers seemed to be prepared to share a little bit more on their needs for renovation and design,” she explains.
By March 2020, a dedicated corner within the dining and kitchen area of Ikea’s Alexandra outlet had also been carved out, with the intention of serving clients looking at renovation and interior design services.
“We've looked at it, and from the time that we started until now, we’ve already served over 1,000 customers,” says Ong.
Interior design and renovation packages for a two-room HDB Build-To-Order unit are priced at $9,900, a three-room BTO unit at $12,500, and a four-room BTO unit at $15,600 (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
But even though Ikea already had two dedicated carved-out zones for its new service, there was still a need to roll out a standalone studio focusing on renovation and design. “The whole mindset actually changes when you actually show customers that you mean business. That was then what our gut feel was, and so far it seems to be the right gut feel,” Ong says.
“The customer that enters an Ikea store has a different shopping journey, they have a different mindset — they go in there for meatballs, walk around the store, maybe they might do a renovation, but at times it might be a little late in the journey, or too early in the journey, they’re just here to get inspired.”
“But with our standalone planning studio, even from yesterday, we already had so many queries on renovations,” says Ong, referring to the studio in Jurong Point one day before the store was officially launched on Jan 12.
Of its customers, some 60% are HDB homeowners, while 30% reside in condos. “We do get some homeowners from landed homes, and the occasional commercial interest, but the majority is still very much those that are within the vicinity of Tampines, and within the vicinity of Alexander,” says Ong. she says. “So the buying patterns do not stray very far away from the proximity of the store itself.”
At the Jurong Point outlet, homeowners will get to visualise, design and fit out a virtual home from scratch (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
If buying patterns for Ikea’s renovation and fitting packages are tied to a physical store, then it makes sense to have more retail shopfronts, which can capture walk-in demand.
In the second quarter of this year, Ikea will be opening its third store in Singapore, taking up 6,500 sq m (about 70,000 sq ft) across three floors of Jem shopping centre. Customers will also be able to speak to Livspace consultants, although this outlet will not be a dedicated planning studio like its counterpart in Jurong Point.
By opening up more retail stores, “we would like to offer convenience”, says Ong. “We don’t want to make customers travel all the way from one end of Singapore to the other.”
Shanmugam says Ikea may be looking at opening “three to five more” planning studios throughout Singapore in the next 18 to 24 months.
In the second quarter of this year, Ikea will be opening its third store in Singapore, taking up 6,500 sq m (about 70,000 sq ft) across three floors at Jem shopping centre (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
Beyond Singapore, Ikea is also keen on expanding its interior design and renovation partnership with Livspace throughout the region. “Every market in Southeast Asia wants affordable renovations, and they want the end-to-end service,” says Ong, recognising several untapped markets.
The partnership is targeting capital cities in Southeast Asia such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Manila. “We are very, very excited about the possibility of rolling this out, with aggressive launch timelines,” says Shanmugam.
If expansion in the region is successful, besides being popular for its furniture and meatballs, the Swedish retailer would soon also be known for hacking down walls.