Ikea is known for its puzzle-quality furniture assembly, and equally for its puzzle-like layout. Since the store’s first opening, we can be sure plenty of families have played hide-and-seek within its walls, intentionally or not. As early as 2005, photo evidence on social media suggests people have taken advantage of the labyrinth within the big box for organized games of hide-and-seek. So popular have these epic games become that Ikea had to issue a ban on the activity in 2015. However, the ban didn’t stop 3,000 Scottish enthusiasts from trying again in August of 2019.
The Highland Games
The Glasgow Ikea hosts everything a fan of the Nordic chain has come to expect, from tasty meatballs in the cafe to a supervised play area. Also familiar to Ikea enthusiasts are their serpentine showrooms, filled with thousands of nooks and crannies in which to wedge oneself. Though the Glasgow location has not explained how they caught wind of the Facebook-planned event, they had extra security guards and local police on the scene the last weekend in August. Employees were ready to turn away an expected 3,000-member playdate.
Some early arrivals — there to scope out the best hiding places, no doubt — took to Facebook to warn others that the retailer would not be as welcoming as they had hoped. The additional security presence had its intended effect, and no one shouted “you’re it!” inside the walls that day. According to Wales Online, another UK Ikea — this time, in Cardiff Bay — was the intended spot for an August 2018 game. The organizers were so keen to break participant records, they even issued a press release, outlining the rules of the game:
1. You are not allowed to hide beyond the car park
2. You must not vandalise/break any of the items in Ikea
3. You may only play in the customer areas i.e. no entering the staff only areas
4. NO STEALING
It appears the Cardiff Bay event came on the heels of a Bristol, England plan in 2017 for which 14,000 signed up. Alas, there’s no evidence either event happened. Apart from urban legend, the official participant record appears to be from an Ikea-sanctioned game in 2014 at a Belgium store.
Catch Us If You Can
In 2014, Ikea caught wind of an organized hide-and-seek game in one of its Belgium locations. The game had amassed 30,000 respondents on Facebook so, sensing a marketing opportunity, Ikea endorsed the epic game. Headquarters even helped coordinate and publicize the event. Given Ikea’s enthusiasm, like-minded adventurers can hardly be blamed for copycatting and trying to break the 30,000 participant threshold at the same time.
When a Netherlands Ikea busted up plans for a 32,000 participant game in 2015, the corporate office decided hide-and-seek was no longer fun and games. Head honchos issued a ban on hide-and-seek in their 423 worldwide stores, citing customer safety as their top concern. In the years since, Ikea employees have kept an ear to the ground and an eye on social media in hopes of thwarting any new games.
Several industry publications, like Fast Company and Money Inc., have suggested that Ikea use these events as a necessary rebrand, amid plummeting sales and the death of its CEO in 2018. Playing along with the hide-and-seek fever their layout inspires might work in the retailer’s favor. At the very least, Ikea associates would have an upper hand both hiding from and seeking the more casual visitor.
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