When asked how many people he thought might start camping out in front of the new Columbus IKEA two days before its official opening on June 7, store manager David Garcia said mischievously, “ten or 12.”
After a pause, he revised that number to “a couple hundred.”
The Swedish furniture and home products retailer’s (actually pronounced “ee-kay-uh”) 44th U.S. store (second in Ohio, and 397th worldwide) often draws customers who have driven a couple hours to shop for its products or eat their ethnic fare. Indeed, a media sneak peek drew journalists from as near as Sunbury and Columbus to as far away as Marion and Cleveland.
“This is a beautiful store,” said Garcia, a native of Spain who now lives in Westerville in Delaware County. “We’re a medium-sized IKEA, but big enough to support this market.”
The 354,000-square-foot store employs more than 325 employees, some of whom live in Delaware and surroundings. Many were working the morning of May 31, tidying things up or zipping about in forklifts. All, like Garcia, were dressed in bright yellow IKEA shirts and blue jeans, matching the flag of Sweden’s colors.
“If you like people, you’ll spend everyday interacting with them,” Garcia said of IKEA, named one of the top 100 companies to work in America. “You’ll grow as a person as well in retail.”
After dropping off their kids in a supervised play area, a customer can ride an escalator up to showrooms that contain all manner of furniture and home goods for every room of the house, even appliances, bedding, picture frames, kitchen utensils, and of course, shelving. The shopping smorgasbord’s thoughtful touches include backlit screens to show how a blind or curtain might look.
The company also stresses that it is eco-friendly, from using solar panels to eliminating plastic bags and using LED lighting.
“Constantly we are trying to find ways to lower the cost of production, and we pass the savings on to the customer,” Garcia said. There are three main ways to shop — smaller items can go directly in the shopping cart; items with a yellow tag require contacting a staff member; and items with a red tag can be found in the warehouse, unassembled in a lightweight package.
Computers, note paper and pencils in the store allow the customer to plan how they want to customize their living space. They can even make an appointment to see an in-store decorator.
Some of the furnishings are attractively displayed in small rooms so that even if a customer doesn’t buy anything, they might get some decorating ideas, Garcia said. However, he said a typical customer comes to IKEA three times a year, and should see different products on view each visit.
Lighted arrows on the floor lead the customer through the maze of displays, and blue overhead signs offer shortcuts. There’s also an upstairs cafeteria that serves Swedish dishes such as meatballs, a casual dining area below, and a marketplace that sells some of the store’s less expensive products. Other IKEA pluses touted by Garcia included a one-year return policy and a $59 delivery fee.
Despite the expected opening week crowds, Garcia encouraged people to come to the store.
“Even though it’ll be busy, the shopping experience will be very good.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.each