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Ikea rethinks approach to textiles merchandising

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, March 25, 2002

New York — Ikea is reordering its approach to home textiles, preparing to present a broader assortment of designs and also planning to test a new home textiles layout in a Canadian store opening next month.

"We're looking at textiles in a different way today," said Pernille Spiers-Lopez, president of Ikea North America.

"In textiles, we'll add more new [designs] on a quicker cycle than we have in the past," she told HTT. "Then we will still continue to have a basic assortment of textiles."

In its new Vancouver store, slated to open April 3, Ikea will pull together textiles from its Eating, Sleeping and Living areas into one department, she said.

In addition, the company is reintroducing fabric to its stores, something it dropped during the 1990s when it found that Americans do not sew in nearly the same numbers as Europeans.

"The fabric itself might not have a big sales volume, but it adds to the expectation of the customer," Spiers-Lopez said.

As for the operation's growth plan, Ikea North America will focus its expansion efforts for the near term on existing markets in an effort to provide better service to customers in those markets.

Expansion for the contemporary home furnishings retailer next year involves five new stores in the United States and Canada and four relocations of existing units to larger stores. Included in the latter category are units in Tustin, CA, which will relocate to Costa Mesa, and the City of Industry, CA, store that will relocate to Covina, CA. Each of the relocated stores will be 300,000 square feet, compared with the existing store size of 180,000 square feet. "It will give customers in those markets a chance to see our entire offering," said Spiers-Lopez.

Other relocations will include the chain's first U.S. store, which opened in 1985 in Plymouth Meeting, PA, and one in Edmonton, Canada.

Among the new units will be a store in Paramus, NJ, "that will take the pressure off our existing, very successful store in Elizabeth, NJ. That store can't handle more people," Spiers-Lopez related. Other new units will be in College Park, MD, its third in that market; Toronto; a second in Montreal; and one in East Palo Alto, CA.

Beyond that, Spiers-Lopez said, plans call for five new units a year over a 10-year period. Currently there are 15 stores in the United States and eight in Canada.

Spiers-Lopez, here last week for the launch of PS Collection 2002, a proprietary collection of home furnishings products created "with design, function and price as the criteria," noted that the challenge to the designers was to create functional solutions that bring the outside in and the inside out.

All product is created by Ikea's headquarters team in Sweden, she explained. "But we've worked many years to broaden the assortment here and work with American sizes, especially in bed linens, bed and even drinking glasses, which are bigger here."

The merchandise mix is developed along the lines of eating, sleeping and entertaining, with the living room having the biggest segment of floor space.

"We see kitchens as the heart of the home for both family and entertainment," Spiers-Lopez said.

Communicating with customers is also a critical point for the retailer and last month it signed on with a new ad agency for its $40 million plus account, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Atlanta.

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