A Tale of Two European Stores

A voice says, “Cry out!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
    their constancy is like the flower of the field.
 The grass withers, the flower fades,
    when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
    surely the people are grass.
 The grass withers, the flower fades;
    but the word of our God will stand forever.
(Isaiah 40:6-8, NRSV)

Anyone near Philly remember the French store Carrefour? It had only two locations in the US, quite nearby each other both closed in 1994: Franklin Mills Mall (now Philadelphia Mills, started 1988), and Voorhees (a New Jersey* suburb of Philadelphia, launched 1992). Since its US demise occurred when I was only six or so, I don’t remember much of the store, except a few bits-and-pieces.  (Source: Embarrassingly enough, LOL, Wikipedia)

 
On the other hand, another foreign store that is wildly popular among Americans (and most likely here to stay): Sweden’s IKEA. It not only offers Scandinavian-style furniture, but offers a great cafeteria offering Swedish cuisine, including their world-famous Swedish meatballs. (Some people think their food is “doctored up,” especially people who bear Swedish descent). But who am I to speak for the Swedes? I’ve never been there! Anyway, they sell products from Sweden (and perhaps elsewhere in Scandinavia), and perhaps from kid’s tastes (or even an ultra-American adult taste, LOL), a “bistro.”
 
So Dolores (Dee) would you opt for the bistro, or the cafeteria? (I hope the latter).
 
This may be a pain sometimes, yet it may be a true blessing to speakers of languages other than Swedish. Instructions for building IKEA furniture are strictly pictorial, for they must be globally standardized.

Incidentally, building an IKEA project could be a great task for a person with high-functioning autism, who happens to be non-verbal.  But watch out!  If done in a sheltered workshop, not only might it embarrass “co-workers,” but they could get a competitive (“real”) job!  Now that’s innovation!

Also, while they do set jobs overseas, and thus it is rare to see “Made in Sweden” for an IKEA product, this really doesn’t matter, because they are willing to export worldwide!  With most likely little to owe anyone.  The US, on the other hand, only wants to import.  Maybe that caused the American demise of Carrefour, because all these French goods may have been unattractive to us (think escargot, LOL), or simply the fact that France and the US just tend not to see eye to eye.  But that’s ancient history.  If stores were a boxing or wrestling match, the competitors, in this case, IKEA and Carrefour, the latter would get lots of KO’s.  Carrefour still thrives, however, in many other countries.

But, as they say, all good things shall come to an end.  After all, IKEA didn’t expect to be this good in the USA.  They thought, “why share it with the country that has everything.”   Carrefour didn’t share that success in the US.  But who knows?  You could have too much of this good thing (namely, Swedish furniture), that is, once our country can’t stand it (not only mentally, but perhaps physically!)

Three words that are the heart and soul of economics:

Supply and demand!
*International (and some domestic) readers:  New Jersey is a separate state from Pennsylvania, which is where Philadelphia is located.  However, Pennsylvania (including Philadelphia) borders New Jersey on its east side, by the Delaware River, making much of New Jersey a suburban area to Philadelphia, together with its Pennsylvania suburbs to the west.  Alas, concerning these bridges, you have to pay tolls to cross over the river, at least in one direction.
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