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IKEA cozies up to home in L.A. entry

The opening of the Ikea store here is yet a further refinement of its new approaches to home furnishings merchandising originally launched last January, including a new layout, a strong emphasis on kids furnishings and a focus on coordination across all product lines.

This store represents a major expansion of the giant retailer's focus on the Los Angeles market. Covina, and the Costa Mesa store that opens May 28, are relocations and expansions of units now closed in City of Industry and Tustin respectively. Each fits within the company's current size parameter of 300,000 square feet to 325,000 square feet, offering a full range of coordinated home furnishings — the latter something not previously available in this marketplace.

Relocation and expansion of stores in existing markets include the January opening of Conshohocken, PA, the company flagship that replaced the Plymouth Meeting, PA, unit. In March, it opened a new unit in suburban Montreal, and Alberta is scheduled for a relocation in June as well as a new unit in College Park, MD, a new unit in suburban Toronto in July and new stores in Paramus, NJ, and East Palo Alto, CA, in August.

The Conshohocken store was the first test of a new format for new and remodeled units in the chain that incorporates a center core featuring a cafe and a grid layout off the core, said Clive Cashman, manager, public affairs, Ikea US.

In addition, Cashman explained, "We now have a much stronger textile range.

"There are sections featuring focused coordinates that help visualize the many ways the fabrics can be used."

The format sections the one-level store in quadrants with product specific departments with oases that are corner spots of two meeting departments set diagonally to highlight coordinates. As examples, Cashman pointed to corners featuring furniture with textiles or furniture with lamps.

"From the core center, customers have good sightlines and can see an overview of their choices about where to go," Cashman explained. The results from the stores now featuring this format are good so far, "and the cafe is certainly popular."

Other important points for these stores and future stores "is the strengthening of the green room. We have a very strong position in garden products and are expanding wicker and rattan [in furniture and accessories] and some rugs for decking," Cashman noted.

Fabrics also play a significant role in the new Ikea format. Until recently, fabrics had not been emphasized, but customers were requesting more selection. "We have sections where there are lots of sections of focused coordinates using fabrics for a number of home products. It helps customers visualize what can be done."

Furnishings for kids is getting an increased emphasis in both California stores and in future units. "We're featuring more and more solutions — and room settings." The furnishings, Cashman added, offer "everything scaled for kids and easy to use." At least half of the room setting have kids solutions integrated into the overall theme.

To support its expansion, Ikea is looking for more distribution centers. "We have Montreal and New Jersey, and we've identified a facility in Maryland to help with our later move into the Southeast. We want the shortest possible distance between the East and West facilities and the stores." When complete, the distribution centers will represent 1.7 million square feet.

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