Flatpack firm heads for the hillsides

BBC News Online’s Robert Andrews checks out the latest design from Ikea – its plan to open a store in Wales.

The future is flat – and it is coming to Welsh homes in 2003.

Zeitgeist Swedish furniture stockist Ikea is confident planning permission for a 26,000sqft store in Cardiff will be given the nod by the Welsh Assembly in February.

It will be the company’s 12th UK store, the first in Wales and, bosses hope, it will draw away up to a quarter of the customers from its nearest branch, in Bristol.

UK company boss Goran Nilsson, on a visit to the Welsh capital on Wednesday, said the arrival of one of Europe’s trendiest interiors retailer will create 500 jobs and change the way homes are furnished in Wales.

Mercilessly preaching a 40-year-old ethos of low-price, high-fashion “democratic design”, Ikea has slashed the price of beds, coffee tables and its other items by 12% in the last three years.

In the UK, the retail success story expects to post a £900m turnover at the end of the financial year, saving bosses and consumers money with a pared-down, minimal approach to both products and purchasing.

The company was founded in 1958 by Ingvar Kamprad after the Stockholm designer was forced to remove the legs of a table to carry it home in his car.

What the Swedes dubbed the “flatpack design revolution” was born, and Kamprad rolled out a network of stores which resemble one-stop homeware shops.


Speaking to the Institute of Directors, Nilsson said: “If Ikea didn’t exist in Bristol, for example, to set up a home you would have to go to 15 different retailers instead of just one.

“The Cardiff store will take away up to 30% of the Bristol store – our stores are too small, so we would like to cannibalise existing stores.”

It is part of a 10-year expansion strategy which to create 20 new stores and 10,000 new jobs.

Already, Ikea has notched up 30m annual visitors in the UK – its largest market outside of Germany – and the Welsh store will be the country’s largest after Glasgow.

A showcase for Scandinavian design, the new addition, on the Grangetown area’s Ferry Road, will join a fleet of 143 outlets in 22 countries around the world.

The site in the Welsh capital was chosen ahead of a clamour from Swansea, but will allow Welsh consumers to bypass the Severn Bridge tolls.

But it relies on planning permission being granted early next year – first by Cardiff County Council, then by the Welsh Assembly which is set to get involved because of the size of the project.

Cardiff confidence

UK boss Nilsson, however, brushed off suggestions a protected gasometer could throw a spanner in the works – the Grade Two-listed structure, is not on the site, the company claims.

“The lobbying seems to have been successful,” he said.

“Tony Blair and Rhodri Morgan have been marketing managers for us.

“Where he can have planning gains, the local authorities will benefit from us.

“By February, we believe they will give their approval, I am very confident.”

The 500 promised jobs will be in areas as varied as health and safety and catering, said Mr Nilsson, who also pledged to work closely in the community to benefit schools.

But don not expect the increasingly prosperous success story to rush to adopt indigenous Welsh product designs.

Nilsson said he was not aware of the likes of trailblazing Welsh furniture designer Angela Gidden, and 29% of Ikea products will remain of Scandinavian origin.