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By - Peter

Ikea’s small-stores plan could be good news, of a sort, for Kiwi shoppers

Scandinavian furniture company Ikea has conducted research into the New Zealand market, it has been revealed.

Architecture, retail design and property consulting firm RCG has been working with the company on a market research project in this country.

Managing director John Long said he could not say what Ikea’s plans were.

A spokesperson for the chain did not offer further detail. “Ikea is always exploring opportunities to expand and be more accessible to more people, however we do not currently have confirmed plans to open a store or sell online in New Zealand.”

The prospect of an Ikea store has been on the horizon for many years.

In 2008, the Environment Court ruled that the company could not be a tenant in Mt Wellington retail development Redwoods because of concerns its popularity would cause traffic chaos.

Hamilton then put its hand up in late 2009 to host an Ikea outlet. Its economic development agency invited Ikea scouts to visit the city, but the response was reported to be lukewarm.

There had been hopes the new NorthWest development would include the store. A Facebook page, “Bring Ikea to NZ” has 18,000 likes.

Retail consultant Chris Wilkinson, of First Retail Group, said New Zealand did not have the scale of infrastructure to service stores in the usual Ikea model.

“Where they are in Australia they’ve got the ability to have big distribution systems and centralised head offices, all these things the New Zealand market doesn’t give them the opportunity do.

“The other challenge is they need a fairly large footprint – their stores are very much destination stores.”

Mt Wellington would be the most suitable site for an Ikea outlet, he said, with good motorway access, public transport links and the space required.

It also provided good access into the Waikato and Bay of Plenty markets.

“For a business like Ikea, Mt Wellington would be the holy grail if they could find a site.”

But he said recent news that Ikea was considering a shift to smaller stores could be good news for New Zealand.

“Consumers are going to be working very differently in future. People will be more likely to go into Ikea and not pick up their purchases but have the product shipped to them.

“It’s highly likely they could put smaller stores in have the product shipped from Australia or Singapore every day. The retail market is changing rapidly.”

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