IKEA takes home project service onto high street

IKEA has said it will open a mini-store in the heart of London’s West End as part of a new strategy that will bring the Swedish flat pack furniture firm onto British high streets and grow its brand presence.

The store is due to open on Tottenham Court Road in the autumn and it will focus on offering a “personal” service to customers looking to undertake larger-scale home projects, such as a new kitchen or bedroom.

The shop is the firm’s “first step” in a new strategy that is responding to the “continued growth of city living and changing consumer lifestyles”, IKEA said.

Up until now, IKEA stores have tended to occupy massive warehouses in out-of-town locations.

The firm said it was also exploring other locations in London for similar outlets as well as opportunities to test and trial different formats in the city centre.

"If the new IKEA store in Tottenham Court Road, as they say it will, focuses on large-scale kitchen projects, then this could definitely be a threat to high street kitchen showrooms"

Javier Quiñones, IKEA UK and Ireland country retail manager, said, “In a fast-changing retail environment, the opening of this new city centre shop marks an exciting development for the IKEA business as we continue to innovate and transform to better meet the needs of our customers.

“Urbanisation and inner-city living are trends that continue to dominate the market. By launching this new approach and investing in our online offer and services, we are working to ensure IKEA remains affordable, convenient and sustainable, both now and in the future.”

Last year, B&Q opened its first high street “mini” store in the UK to trial the format.

Jat Sahi, digital lead retail at technology firm Fujitsu UK & Ireland, said: “Opening small stores allows retailers to be more visible, versatile, and similarly to how fast fashion works, allow them to respond to customer trends quicker.

“When customers know what they want, it’s easier for them to buy online; but if they don’t – that’s when they go offline.”

He anticipated bricks-and-mortar stores becoming more “flexible” and trialling new concepts.

“For example in the US, we’ve already seen Nordstorm open a number of micro stores, where customers request products online but try them on and buy in-store.

“As digital redefines customer experience, retailers must think of themselves as tech companies, making the best of the technology available to them to please and entice the customer.”

A major supplier of European kitchen brands to the UK retail market, InHouse Inspired Room Design, noted the sheds’ interest in the high street but wasn’t convinced that the strategy would be successful.

Managing director Wayne Dance said: “Many have tried it, such as Homebase, but don’t have the stability of kitchen staff staying around long enough to give the same service as the retailers. Only Howdens have managed to succeed with this and they aren’t high street. 

“There’s definitely a trend for trying but trying and pulling it off profitably are two entirely different matters.”

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