What do Shanghai’s IKEA and Cupid have in common?

June 19, 2012

IKEA seems to have been adopted by the Chinese. Back in November 2010, I wrote IKEA Sleepover in Beijing about IKEA’s Chinese fans that loved the place so much, it became a favorite spot to take a nap.

Recently, I discovered that IKEA in Shanghai is where retired, singles seek love while drinking free coffee.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the dating hot-spot for senior citizens who are out either looking for love or new friends, is none other than the Swedish furniture manufacturer.

Then in November 2011, NPR.org reported, “Twice a week, hundreds of Shanghai residents who have formed an informal lonely hearts club of sorts gather at the cafeteria of the Swedish furniture megastore for free coffee and conversation.

“The pensioners begin arriving around 1 in the afternoon and fill nearly 20 tables in the store cafeteria. They sit for hours drinking coffee, gossiping and subtly checking each other out.” If you click on NPR’s link above, you may listen to the story.

Global Post.com says, “Unlike bars or dance clubs, the atmosphere at IKEA is casual and non-threatening. It makes it easy for the seniors, who show up in groups of 70 to 700 people, to chat over a cup of coffee. And because IKEA serves free coffee to anybody carrying an IKEA Family membership card, some of the seniors don’t even have to pay for their cup. Zhou Hong works at IKEA as a card swiper, and she told The Wall Street Journal that on average, she hands out around 500 cups of coffee each time the seniors meet.”

However, IKEA isn’t the only one playing the role of a cupid in China. China’s postal service also plays cupid. Yahoo.com says, “Who would have thought that Beijing’s publicly run postal service would try to play cupid and save marriages from the “seven-year itch” (the critical point when, some say, a spouse’s eyes begin to wander)?”

But what about IKEA?  Is IKEA losing money giving away free coffee to help fill lonely hearts with caffeinated love?

According to the numbers, no.

In fact, IKEA is doing great. Three of its five largest stores are in China, and IKEA reported that in 2011, its net profits rose 10.3% to $3.85 billion with its biggest gains in Russia, China and Poland.

Maybe handing out free coffee to lonely seniors was a good idea.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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