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IKEA supersizes Philly location

The new big, blue building spotted right off Route 476 here represents not only the newest unit to join the IKEA family; it is also the launch of the Swedish retailer's North American expansion plan to open or remodel 10 new stores annually over the next five years.

Set to open Jan. 15, this location replaces IKEA's first store in North America, about 10 miles away in Plymouth Meeting, PA. It's also a barometer of just how much IKEA has changed in the eighteen years since it landed on U.S. shores.

Unveiled during a preview last week, the store here, at 325,000 square feet, is roughly double the size of the original unit and will offer IKEA's entire merchandise assortment, where the old store could only fit about 70 percent.

IKEA is also using the store to test a new marketplace layout to make shopping easier and more relaxing. Dropping the meandering pathway layout it's known for, IKEA has placed merchandise in a grid pattern instead. That opened up the shopping environment, still encouraging customers to browse but also allowing them the option to head directly to their destination. Customers will also be able to visit multiple rest areas when they want to take a break. The marketplace also has a small café in the center, separate from the restaurant upstairs

The store will also feature five model homes, fashioned after those of actual families, including a single mother and her daughter as well as a family of three.

Eight other stores will open over the next eight months, including units in Costa Mesa, Covina and East Palo Alto, CA; College Park, MD; Paramus, NJ; and three stores in Canada.

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