ILVA in Gateshead

We were all looking forward to our first visit to the home retailer ILVA. The web site was fantastic and promised so much. So what did we think?

Back at the building that had caused M&S so many problems, it did look different, much more open but a bit bland! We walked into a very white double height entrance and were immediately confused – how do we get in!! There were a few products, a tree! and an information desk. We had to ask and were directed to an escalator (no signage). It was a long drive so we headed for the café, it was large, empty, and a bit intimidating; it felt more like a canteen than a rest point. But there were lots of staff, unfortunately not very interested in us. We had lunch, again nothing special.

Then onto the retail. We were faced with regimented rows of white room-sets, well almost room sets - a few items of furniture with some very odd and repetitive prints in each space. There did not seem to be any reason for the adjacencies, and the product was very variable. Our immediate thought was a good visual merchandiser could make such a difference. There was one open area filled with dining furniture, one table after another! No graphic messages, very few accessories and expensive. The children’s area was a visual break but there was not enough unfortunately. The bath shop again lacked stock and the stories were very weak, there was no good, better, best structure; the offer is as good and cheaper at Sainsbury’s.
How about the staff? Well they ignored us. Probable a good thing, they were so young they did not look as if they could give any useful advice on anything beyond a weird haircut.

We have been educated by IKEA and this was so old fashioned. There were a few interesting items but if customers were not put off by the lack of inspiration the bizarre pricing/buying policy was next. A lovely little coffee table/stool at £150 with a chair next to it for £55 – suddenly the coffee table seemed over priced! This irregular pricing was not restricted to the furniture but was even more pronounced in the accessories. Not good value was the conclusion we reached.

So what else went wrong?

We could not get to the ground floor furniture; confused again, this time we followed one of the few other customers but found the door was locked! So we walked back to the main entrance and there was a sign at last - an A4 typed sign stuck to the entrance telling us were to go! More white room sets, more staff ignoring us and more disappointing product. At last we got to the accessories and discovered where the horrible prints had come from! But yet again the pricing and adjacencies confused us. They had some very nice product and if they had gathered it together as their premier collection and told us why it was better we might have bought but we were just confused.

Then last but not least we could not get out! Again we followed another customer who was very unhappy and discovered we were not allowed out of the exit opposite the tills but had to walk via the collection point to another exit “Even further away from the ***** car in the pouring rain” we heard him say.
I wonder if it will survive – is this an example of a retailer presuming their offer will work in another country and not doing their homework well enough.

The store needs a more inspirational layout that draws customers through the store rather than the enforced route.
Re-organising with navigational signage and stronger stories.
Better visual merchandising in the room sets. Information with the product.
A strong ‘Good, Better, Best’ policy.
A far better understanding of the UK customer.

Sorry ILVA – not good enough.

4 Responses to “ILVA in Gateshead”

  1. 1 Robert Holland Mar 15th, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    I found your article whilst googling for Ilva as I have recently had my first experience of ILVA in Gateshead and I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever had such a terrible retail experience, and I’ve had some bad ones with Dixons!

    All the points you make are absolutely valid, the store feels like a morgue and the pricing is insane. Our experience got even worse when we wanted to buy something.

    The bookcase we wanted wasn’t in stock but we were able to resever one in the next delivery, once we’d found a member ofstaff to help us - though it meant a return trip. Then in the accessories department again staff were unhelpful and it seemed untrained on the internal systems. There were apparently 3 of the light fittngs we wanted instore but as they weren’t on the shelf or in the stock room it was assumed they were on room displays. Again there was a delivery due but apparently you can’t reserve items from that department in advance. However we could phone them back on delivery day to put one aside. Which seems like reserving to me but costing me more time and money. Hey I’m only the customer, what do I know. The following week we collected the bookcase and took it home. The bookshelf was, despite it’s simple construction, the most frustrating piece of flatpack I’ve ever constructed. It was designed in such a way that any decent sized screwdriver would not actually be usuable. The holes were off centre and frankly the item was just awful.
    All in all the staff, store and products were all so bad I will never ever visit ILVA again. I thought I hated IKEA but compared to Ilva it’s a paradise.

  2. 2 Jennifer Rowell Mar 31st, 2007 at 11:17 am

    In the two pieces you have written about Ilva Gateshead you mention the ‘young’ staff and ‘wierd haircuts’, but when I visited the store recently I spotted maybe one haircut that I would have described as ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ and the staff all seemed to be of a mixed age. There were clearly some younger members of staff who were probably new to retail, but they seemed to be backed up by a reasonable number of older staff who one would assume had retail experience.

    I spoke to several members of staff in the sofa area and in the acessories area and found them to be not only informative and attentive, but downright pleasant.

    I would agree that the signs are not particularly clear, that the layout could be improved (though I didn’t feel boxed in and herded like I do in IKEA) and that the pricing sometimes seems a little erratic, but I could not really fault the staff.

    I asked one lady about the fabric choices on one of the sofas and she talked me through the different options and different price categories and when I wasn’t sure that the sofa was quite right for me she showed me some similar ones. She wasn’t pushy or invasive, she was just helpful and friendly. Similarly the young man in the wicker chairs section actually approached me and offered help, but without making me feel uncomfortable - he genuinely seemed like he wanted to help!

    I can’t comment on the delivery service as I didn’t buy any large items, but I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to return to Ilva and shop again. It almost seems like you have a vendetta against the store when it would appear to me that you caught them on a one-off bad day. Or maybe I caught them on a one-off good day, I guess only a return trip will tell.

  3. 3 Nick Apr 1st, 2007 at 9:01 am

    Jennifer, thanks for your comment. As you say we may have caught them on an off day but most customers don’t give retailers very many second chances if their first shopping experience is bad and you can only call it as you see and experience it.
    I don’t have an axe to grind against Ilva or the store in Gateshead, we even posted on our blog a few ways to fix their store so I wouldn’t call that a vendetta. It has been reported this week that they’re calling a halt to their UK expansion plans so it seems there are definitely a few things that need fixing, one of which (based on our experience, and Robert’s comment above) is their customer service. I do have a vendetta against bad customer service by the way, wherever it occurs!

  4. 4 A Non Apr 5th, 2007 at 10:55 am

    I have experience of working within ILVAs retail outlets, and would like to make a few comments about the sales assistants.

    The staff at ILVA are all dedicated to helping customers with anything they require advice or assistance on. However, it is my opinion that many of ILVAs employees are feeling let down by the operational elements of the organisation i.e. a lack of trust and freedom to act independedntly for each customer.
    Ask any of the staff for assistance and I believe they will do their upmost to help you, but, due to the (lack of) organisational culture they are probably suffering from very low morale!

    From my experience ILVA sales assistants are of varying ages, ranging from 16 - 60 ?, but very few have ‘weird’ haircuts, or anything else for that matter!

    Granted, some items of furniture may seem as if they would require an apprentiship in carpentry to build, BUT, if you have problems, why not ring the store to ask for help? I believe they now have access to instructions, and may even be able to help you from first hand experience. At least if they are aware of the problems that customers are experiencing they can begin to look into alternative possibilities.

    If it’s still the proceedure, ILVAs customer service desk holds a complaints log. If you have a complaint or suggestion to make the store/company better for you then make sure you let them know - after all, how are they meant to make the experience better for their customers if they are unaware of their problems and annoyances. You wouldnt miss the opportunity to express your opinions at the polling stations now, would you?

    Whilst I appreciate that problems with purchases are increadibly annoying, and should not occur, I would like to reiterate my first point: I have never worked with a better group of people. The staff are the best thing about ILVA - use them to their full potential and see what they can really do for you!

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