|Ikea, Springvale Homemaker Centre|
Although the main purpose was to visit Ikea to obtain some minor household items, and so that a friend could look at some shelves and cabinets, we most enjoyed the other stores in the centre.
The centre has much more than Ikea - it includes Store, Provincial, Harvey Norman Big Buys, Domayne, Howards Storage World, House and others. Besides Ikea, there's three small places for coffee. We ate at Creatures of Habit, and had great piadinis. The coffee was nice, but the cup seemed a little small. Apparently they have free wi-fi.
The style of the mall reflects those we've seen overseas - a cut above our older suburban malls like Westfield Southland and parts of Chadstone. For example, the large open car parks with well defined pedestrian walkways, the enclosed, well lit and air-conditioned escalators from the car parks up into the mall, and the very wide and clutter free mall itself. This obviously reflects modern design practices for malls. My experience is that most homemaker centres in south-eastern Melbourne are of the big box variety - large open car parks surrounded by concrete boxes rather than an enclosed mall.
Ikea itself was fine - I've blogged before about my frustration with their stock ordering and its inaccuracies. This was the first time we've entrusted their Kids Club with care of our children. The registration process was slow and overseen by a process zealot who bordered on being rude. There seemed to be a lot of unwritten rules at the check-in and check-out process. The passive confrontation by their staff could be avoided if they communicated their expectations to their customers a little more clearly (eg a sign saying "wait here until called" rather than every family being told to move back because they were too close to the family being registered!).
If you plan to use the club arrive early - the slow registration process involves filling out two pages of questions for each child, which is then checked by their staff. Another improvement would be better form design - its complicated layout meant each parent before us in the queue missed questions, further slowing down the process. If a family in front of you has more children than you, and takes longer to fill out the forms, then the whole queue has to wait - there's no jumping ahead because someone has trouble with their forms or finding phone numbers for emergency contacts.
It was also strange that no water appeared to be on offer to the children in their hour in the centre.
The paging system worked well - after an hour you are paged to collect your children. Our children really did enjoy their time in the room and it is an excellent service to offer.
Our strategy for visiting the Homemaker Centre was to check out a few of the other stores first, price items then go into Ikea to see what they had that was similar. We all know that it is impossible to quickly visit Ikea, so prior research in the competition avoids finding something in Ikea, then checking alternatives, and then revisiting Ikea to get an apparent bargain.
Our children tired out well before we looked through all the stores at the Springvale Homemaker Centre. For me, its location makes it quite easy to visit during the week because I pass it twice a day. I don't plan to visit on a weekend because of the crowds generated by Ikea. I would like to go back to have another look - lost likely on a Thursday or Friday evening, on the way home from work.
Finally, there was even a delightfully helpful security guard when we entered the car park from a different lift and were trying to figure out where our car was.
We purchased an item from 'Store' that I'll post about shortly.