Could the pop philosophy about women being from Venus, men from Mars, apply when furniture-shopping?
Some might think so, judging from what IKEA Canada, a division of the international home furnishings chain, discovered during a survey about bedrooms.
In questioning mostly young married couples, IKEA identified one particular finding that relates to contentiousness in the shopping experience.
Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver said they had arguments with their partners before, during, or after shopping for furniture or other household items.
Differences occurred in making product choices (plaid or floral, for example), as well as in shopping strategy, says Laurence Martocq, a spokesperson for IKEA Canada.
"Women often like to walk all around the store, follow all the arrows, and be inspired," she says.
"That can prove frustrating to a man, who may have an exact idea about what it is they want. He may want to find a shortcut, and go directly to that section."
Ms. Martocq says IKEA likes to think of itself as a solution-oriented company, and in this case, shopping itself emerged as the problem.
Consequently, in a strategy devised with obvious publicity value, the company brought in therapists schooled in conflict resolution to conduct in-store customer seminars.
Differences in selecting a couch are not necessarily signs of incompatibility. Instead, shopping for furniture can be an exercise in melding two lives, Martocq says.
What must be resisted, she adds, is the frequently heard male refrain: "She makes all the decisions. I just go along with them."
"There should be compromise," Martocq emphasizes.
It's helpful to realize that people frequently shop for home furnishings at crucial junctures in their lives, when their living situations are changing. For example, IKEA sells to many newly married couples who need to relearn how to share a home.
In some cases, the changes may be precipitated by unwelcome developments - such as divorce or job loss - or a most welcome one, such as starting a family.
In the latter situation, furniture-buying decisions can occur under financial strain.
"It's when you have a family that you have the most costs in life and the least amount of means," she says. This is especially true if either the new mom or dad will be taking unpaid parental leave.
So, which piece of furniture involves the most decisionmaking?
"We don't have [hard] information on that," Martocq says, "but through observation and speaking to people in some of the stores, it's logical: Couches are perceived as a big purchase, because the notion of permanence is there."
Aware of this hurdle and consumer desire for more-fashionable furnishings, IKEA is building more flexibility into its product line by offering a line of slipcovers. "That way," Martocq says, "even if the structure is permanent, the look can change and evolve with your life."