The real reason Ikea is so confusing to navigate

Michael Bolen

If you've ever spent a Kafkaesque Sunday ambling aimlessly through the labyrinthine interior of an IKEA with frantic thoughts of escape flitting through you mind, we may finally have an explanation for your ordeal.

What seemed like a meaningless exercise in gratuitous brutality was actually a clever sales ploy. That's right, they make it impossible to escape on purpose.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Alan Penn, a professor of architectural computing at University College London, recently gave a lecture on why IKEA makes their stores so difficult to navigate.

According to Prof. Penn, getting lost in the store leaves shoppers feeling "licensed to impulse purchase." And the strategy works. Approximately 60 per cent of purchases at IKEA weren't on shoppers' lists.

"By the time you get to the Marketplace [checkout area] you've spent half an hour walking past bedrooms and bathrooms and living rooms and all these things you didn't actually come here for, but getting subliminal messages about what goes with what," Prof. Penn says. "Before long, you've got a trolley full of stuff that are not the things you came there for."

While IKEA is perhaps the most egregious offender when it comes to treating retail like the slots floor at a casino, they are far from alone. Walmart seems to stock their shelves with all the order of a teenager's bedroom floor, and with discount retailer Target set to enter the Canadian market things are only going to become more confusing.

Things could be worse though. Imagine how empty your life would be without heart-shaped miniature ice cubes and that edgy POÄNG armchair.

You can watch Prof. Penn's lecture for yourself below.

(Photo credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty)