Visiting Ikea is usually more like an intrepid expedition than a quick trip to the shops. The Swedish furniture maker’s giant purpose-built, out-of-town stores are built like labyrinths and the sofas, cupboards and bookcases with unfamiliar names like POÄNG, EKTORP and STOCKSUND only add to the sense of adventure. Better bring some provisions unless you have a taste for meatballs.
But with an eye on those customers who don’t want to turn every furniture purchase into a day out, the company is planning to open a tranche of new, smaller stores in city centres. It first announced the plan in June and opened the first new format ‘order and collection point’ in Norwich earlier this month. Another is planned for Aberdeen in the New Year, and now it looks like Ikea could be heading to Britain’s most famous shopping street.
'We are also exploring a number of other potential locations across the UK, one of which is the BHS building on Oxford Street,’ a spokesperson told the Times. ‘While we are seriously considering this opportunity, we have nothing to confirm...while discussions are ongoing.’
The BHS part shouldn’t come as a surprise – the ailing department store has been looking for new ways to squeeze its assets after long-time owner Philip Green sold it for £1 back in March. But the expensive choice of location is a new strategy for the normally cost-conscious Ikea.
The new stores will still include the company’s trademark furniture displays and have some products available to buy off-the-shelf. But their main function will be as a click and collect points for those who have ordered their furniture online.
Ikea’s performance has been pretty strong lately. Its sales were up 11.2% to €32bn (£22.6bn) in the year to august as it expanded in new international markets. But the company is hungry for more, and is targeting sales of €50bn by 2020. It looks like, in order to meet that target, it will need to expand its appeal to those unwilling to spend a day traipsing around a maze in search of a flat-pack futon.