Postcard from... Beijing


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The Independent Online


On a recent mideek visit to Ikea’s flagship shop in Beijing, dozens of people were fast asleep in the beds and couches on display. And it gets even worse at the weekends.

It may be sticky outside in the August heat but it is cool inside in the air-conditioned store, so people are taking the opportunity to catch up on some sleep.

One man is dozing diagonally across a double bed; in another, a mother has put her sleeping child in a pushchair and got under the covers herself. Another man is curled up in a child’s bed, perhaps reliving some childhood experience. On a red couch, two women sleep leaning into each other. One woman has taken off her jacket and is fast asleep in a couch, while a girl in a black singlet wakes, rubs her eyes, and starts texting.

There is nothing sleepy about Ikea’s business in China. The cafeteria is packed with people queuing up for meatballs or  Chinese gongbao chicken.

The Swedish company is aiming to open at least three shops every year in China, which it expects to be its biggest market within two decades. It has been in China for 15 years and has 12 shops in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Dalian, Shenyang, Tianjin and Wuxi. It is now China’s biggest foreign commercial property owner.

Ikea had revenues of six billion yuan (£630bn) in China last year and its shops welcomed more than 15 million visitors – 7.3 million came to the Beijing flagship store. On a normal day, the 42,000 square metre store gets 28,000 visitors. Not all of them come to sleep, clearly.