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VOL. 131 | NO. 221 | Friday, November 4, 2016

Ikea Prepares To Join Retail Landscape In Cordova

By Bill Dries

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The marketplace section of the Ikea Memphis store is still a work in progress six weeks from its Dec. 14 opening.

The Cordova Ikea store to open Dec. 14 features numerous room models that combine different merchandise for customers to see a more coordinated view of home furnishings.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Shelves are awaiting items in the home organization and storage area. The same is true in the home decoration area. LED fixtures are in place in the lighting area.

And the 200-seat restaurant has a way to go before it’s ready to undergo inspections and start cooking up the first batches of three kinds of meatballs Ikea is known for.

The showroom is stacked with sofas, all covered in vastly different designs, at several points near room settings.

Teams of workers, some from other Ikea stores and others newly hired, are working on specific elements from schematics and experience.

A translucent red tube bridge is awaiting assembly in a play area surrounded by the elements of a child’s room – one of several children’s room models on display.

A look around the Ikea store this week showed much work still to be done. But there was enough in place to demonstrate why visiting Ikea is a shopping experience. It’s the way the store is assembled once the building around it is completed.

Trisha Bevering of Ikea, who was among those leading media tours of the Cordova store Tuesday, Nov. 1, talked about “what it takes to shop at Ikea” while quickly adding that shoppers at the Memphis store will be free to explore on their own.

“We have interior designers, visual merchandisers who come in and bring life into our room settings,” Bevering said. “We have to price everything, build everything, put lighting in. We have a lot left to do, but we’ll be ready by the 14th.”

The 271,000-square-foot space has 45 room settings and three model homes. It also has a floor-to-ceiling warehouse with 36 aisles that together are a reminder of the outside dimensions of the structure.

At times, the level of coordination in the store’s layout appears to be on level with a subdivision.

“All of our room settings are really thought out,” Bevering said.

Each home model reflects different kinds of families.

“There’s kitchens and baths and bedrooms and living spaces,” she said. “And it’s a way for us to show you that we have everything for your whole and complete home. It’s about small-space living as well. If you are living in small spaces, we show you how to use every ounce of those homes.”

The showroom is a blend of Ikea items in which single products are rarely viewed in isolation or without coordination. Several contrasting types of furniture may be placed in the same space for consideration. And Ikea’s online presence includes an experience that allows shoppers to make the same kind of mix-and-match considerations before going to the store.

“It’s a day out,” Bevering said. “We want you to come in. We want you to experience the furniture. We have great offers for you. And then we have a place for you to rest and eat something in our restaurant while you are still shopping.”

Ikea opens toward the end of the holiday shopping season and about a year and a half after another retail destination opening: Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, which has a very different context that has come with some questions.

The store and its related attractions, including a hotel and rooftop observation deck, has drawn 3 million customers in the 18 months Bass Pro Shops has been open for business. But there are questions about how the store has impacted surrounding businesses and attractions, and whether those coming to The Pyramid are getting off Interstate 40 for the experience and then getting right back on as soon as they are finished.

Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau president Kevin Kane said last month that the outdoors retailers is probably re-examining its mix of attractions and shopping experience with an eye toward shifting the balance more toward retail.

Like Bass Pro, Ikea is visible from the interstate and situated near an exit. Germantown Parkway contains a dense concentration of brand-name retailers, from big box to retail strip, as well as Memphis’ largest shopping mall, Wolfchase Galleria. Several of the shopping centers have their own road systems.

Ikea’s neighbors include Costco, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Ashley Home Store and Kohl’s – plus four motels, one directly across the parking lot from Ikea’s front entrance.

Ikea is set up to start welcoming overnight campers two days before the Dec. 14 opening, and the retail campout is a known quantity among older retailers along the busy Cordova stretch.

There isn’t much other than retail to distract attention on Germantown Parkway. And the Ikea store is built for that competition.

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