Ikea opens first city center shopping center in West London | Ikea

When Ikea bought the old Kings Mall two years ago, more than a quarter of the shops in the dilapidated Hammersmith mall were empty.

On Thursday, the Swedish furniture giant’s £170million experiment in West London shopping center will be tested with the opening of Livat, its first city center shopping center in the world and the first to be renovated rather than built from scratch.

While Ikea’s parent group controls 47 other shopping centers around the world, with 37,000 square meters, Livat is just over a third the size of its typical site and its first in the UK. Livat is also home to Ikea’s only large store in the UK, which is a quarter of the size of a typical store.

The former Kings Mall is now fully let, with new tenants including German discount supermarket Lidl, a library of things (a social enterprise) and Sook, the retail or event space for rent at the hour, alongside an Ikea point of sale.

The first customers are greeted by IKEA co-workers at the official opening of the IKEA Hammersmith store in the new Livat Hammersmith shopping center in London. Photo: Ikea

“This is the first step in our journey to develop more locations in the city centre,” said Cindy Andersen, managing director of the property arm of Ikea’s parent group, Ingka Centres, which bought the 1980s site. “This was the perfect opportunity to revamp an existing long-established location and take it to the next level to breathe new energy into the place.”

The mall, which Ikea spent £170million to buy and redevelop, will include a small hall for local food pop-ups alongside Ikea’s own Swedish Deli and two other cafes offering meatballs, open sandwiches and coffees.

Brightly colored seating on a staircase under a repaved atrium will lead to a locally run cafe above the mall, which sits alongside a redeveloped outdoor space for council tenants in the residential block above, with a wildflower meadow, seating and planters.

The project is a bold bet on a post-Covid world. It paves the way for the redevelopment of the former Topshop flagship on London’s Oxford Street, which will reopen as Ikea next autumn as the Swedish group plans to spend £1billion to expand into the capital over the next three years.

Andersen said Ikea is “actively looking” for more city sites to redevelop in cities across the UK, Europe and North America.

Later this year, Ikea will breathe new life into San Francisco’s 6X6 “ghost mall,” which has stood empty since its completion in 2016. The group is meanwhile redeveloping Toronto’s Aura Podium, which once housed a branch of Bed, Bath & Beyond and a few restaurants. .

The Hammersmith store opens a year later than planned after work to pass through smaller stores and a former Debenhams and basement, which was once several warehouses, took longer than expected during the pandemic.

Peter Jelkeby, director of Ikea’s UK retail operations, said the retailer would look at a range of opportunities to fill the gaps and make the furniture store more accessible in London as buying habits were changing. More than 44% of the group’s UK sales were online last year, up from 19% in 2019.

“We have to be nimble,” he said, pointing to the group’s experiments with lockers where shoppers can pick up produce in Twickenham and Kingston, west London. If the idea proves popular, another 20 venues are on the cards in London by the end of this year.

“Hammersmith is a new way to reach consumers. It’s going to be accessible to quite different buying behaviors… I’m optimistic about the physics [store] space, but it must be in harmony with digital sales.

He said Ikea expected the furniture market to continue to grow, although there was a slowdown in “extreme demand” for certain types of products, such as desks and chairs. office, which has been seen during pandemic shutdowns and the shift to work. of the House.

“It’s a volatile market but we’re quite optimistic,” Jelkeby said. He admitted that securing the supply and transport of a whole range of products was “always difficult” and that it was unclear how long the problems would last.

Ikea said it expects price inflation of 10-11% in the UK and Ireland this year, although some products are up 50%.

Jelkeby said: “We’ve absorbed a lot of cost increases and inflation is going [continue] be around us. We will continue to become more efficient and the consumer will decide whether we are competitive. »

The Ikea Hammersmith store is a step up from Ikea’s previous high street formats in the UK, which have all closed, such as the small store based on planning kitchens or bathrooms in the center from London Tottenham Court Road and Bromley, South East London.

The store, which houses 18 sets of pieces, compared to more than 30 in a typical Ikea store, offers large items that can be ordered for home delivery as well as room design services and 1,800 different smaller take-out items, cups, artificial plants and kitchen kit to technology like lamps equipped with a Sonos smart speaker. The biggest item that can be taken home immediately is a coffee table.

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Peggy P. Gilmore