Is the hunger for Ikea about to recede? Ryan Jennings takes a look at the new store.
With its 31,500 square metre shop space, free crèche (as long as you’re not staying longer than 45 minutes) and Swedish food restaurant, the M50’s latest traffic- puller, Ballymun superstore Ikea certainly has the goods but it might have come that decade too late.
The store, which has been 10 years in the making due to planning delays, finally opened on 27 July and gives Irish shoppers the first taste of Ikea’s all- encompassing DIY culture. Don’t be fooled, except for those on the tills, the 500 staff members are not there to cater to your every whim.
Most shoppers will surely be familiar with the two-year old store just outside Belfast and indeed it was the thirst shown by southern shoppers for the northern outlet that confirmed the go-ahead for the 301st store worldwide.
Prices in-store, the company contends, will be on a par with those in the North and it even expects them to become cheaper as sterling strengthens against the euro in the latter part of the year.
In spite of the unwavering support of Fingal County Council, planners imposed 30 conditions on the original application, of which 13 were related to traffic.
At that time planning guidelines capped the size of retail warehouses at 6,000 square metres. However, in 2005 that limit was lifted which paved the way for the 31,500 square metre outlet. A second planning application was then accepted in February 2006.
In response to the traffic conditions, an upgrade of the Ballymun interchange is currently underway and the firm has employed a €3 per hour parking charge between 4pm and 8pm. It is hoped the scheme will discourage shoppers from travelling in and around the evening rush hour period.
The store does not open until 11am and therefore early morning traffic should not be affected.
Ikea has often considered itself an environmental retail pioneer but aspects of its model have been criticised by environmentalists. Because of the size of its stores, the company has almost always had to settle on an out-of-town site and, given the distance that most customers have to travel, has been deemed by detractors as the very opposite of the green dream.
For the moment only one public transport service serves the store, the 13a bus; though service number 140 will be extended to reach the area.
The outlet actually has more in common with a tourist attraction than a simple shop. Shoppers ramble through the vast premises, with staged, homely rooms, which scales more than six football pitches and sells more than 9,500 products. It is six times larger than any other retail outlet in the country. However, globally Ikea has cut 5,000 jobs over the last year but in spite of the recession’s effects in Ireland the firm has high hopes.
In 2008 the group posted profits of €21.2 billion, up by €1.4 billion from the previous year. However, there is still an element of risk given the current state of economic affairs, though the queues at the store, estimated at 3,000 but later increased to 5,000 showed no signs of receding. Indeed 82 per cent of its sales last year were in Europe.
It has taken 66 years for Ikea to make the journey to Ireland. Ingvar Kampard, at just 17 years old took the first letters of his Christian and surname name, his family farm of Elmtaryd and village where he grew up, Agunnaryd, to form Ikea. The first store was opened in 1958 in Sweden but did not come to the UK until 1987.
Stories of the store’s opening few hours of staff being overcome with happiness and competition winners kitting out their homes abound and with nothing but good news at the moment, who knows, maybe it really is ‘better living’ to shop at Ikea.