At last! Norfolk is on the map as far as home furnishings is concerned ... well, that will be the feelings of many with the opening of the region’s first Ikea outlet.
The Swedish home furnishing company, the market leader in the UK with 7.4 per cent of the market, has been conspicuous by its absence from this corner of East Anglia. With 18 outlets in the UK (19 with one about to open in Reading) devotees of its stripped-down, value-for-money aesthetic have had to travel to Lakeside in Essex or London to find a store.
But it now has a yellow-and-blue presence here in what was until this summer a Currys on a retail estate in Norwich.
This is a little bit different, however. Unlike the vast warehouses where it is joked many spend the day trying to find a way out, this is an Ikea Order and Collection Point store – the first of its kind in the UK and one of the first in the world.
Far smaller than a traditional IKEA store it acts primarily as a studio to plan complex purchases such as kitchens and wardrobes and sofas, It does feature some room sets providing inspiration and ideas for is staffed by 30 “co-worker” who are there to offer expert home furnishing knowledge and advice for people to order online.
The products can then be delivered to your home or to the store for collection.
In addition a small range of the ‘markethall’ items will be available for customers to take home on the day of their visit and there is a specialty café with free WiFi and small selection of take-home Swedish Food Market products.
And yes, that does include the famous Swedish meatballs.
“The first question i was asked – the very first question! – was whether Ikea Norwich would be stocking meatballs,” laughed store manager Roger Cooper.
He said he had personal reasons to appreciate why people in this part of the world would be pleased the store was opening.
“I live in Beccles and me and my wife bought an Ikea kitchen. We made four trips down to Lakeside. That was 12 hours in the car! That will now be far less for people in this part of the world.”
Perhaps still wary after the opening of an Ikea in Edmonton 10 years ago turned into a near-riot, there will not be any opening offers on the opening day or week. Ikea say there prices are always low.
Mr Cooper said the key to Ikea’s success is “sustainable functionality” but of course the other virtues it trumpets are design and low price. And there is no doubt that the flat-packed products do appeal to many in those regards. Simple, pine sofas that catch the eye and appeal to young families for under £200 is typical.
Mr Cooper said: “We have had a lot of positive feedback on Ikea’s arrival in the area and so we expect the first few weeks will be quite busy. We look forward to welcoming new and existing customers to the Order and Collection Point over the coming months.”
The Norwich Order and Collection Point is located at Sweet Briar Retail Park off the A140 Sweet Briar Road (Norwich Ring Road).
Opening hours are Monday to Sat, 10am-8am; Sunday, 10.30am-4.30pm (on Sunday the store will be open from 10am for browsing only)