When the Swedish furniture giant IKEA decided to build one of its cavernous stores in Dublin, Ireland’s property boom was at its extravagant peak. By the time of the grand opening at Ballymun on 27 July – there was a log-cutting ceremony – thousands of unsold apartments stood empty within a few miles of the place. Yet the slump hasn’t put a stop to IKEA’s gallop. On the first morning of business, a few hundred people turned up before it opened, hoping to be the first to get their hands on the self-assembly bookshelves. So far, on average, 15,000 people have crossed its threshold every day. The canteen served 137,000 Scandinavian meatballs in one week. Ingvar Kamprad’s position as the world’s fifth richest man seems secure.
We’ll have to see if the frenzy endures. The media hype surrounding the venture was extraordinary. Dublin was plastered with billboards, but IKEA got more than its fair share of free publicity too. Even Dublin Bus took out ads to explain that the number 13 would now be terminating at IKEA. This wasn’t the first bit of asssistance from a public body: the planning board changed its rules for the Ballymun store, which is six times larger than any other retailer in the country.
The tough economic times may even have helped: IKEA advertised for 280 entry-level positions at €9.40 an hour, and received 4000 applications.