Ikea’s first city centre shopping mall opens in west London

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 24th Feb 2022) London, Uk – –

Former Kings Mall in Hammersmith is fully let with a Lidl and events spaces

When Ikea bought the former Kings Mall two years ago, more than a quarter of stores in the run-down Hammersmith shopping centre stood empty.

On Thursday, the Swedish furniture giant’s £170m experiment on the west London shopping mall will be tested with the opening of Livat, its first city centre shopping mall globally and the first to be refurbished rather than built from scratch.

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While Ikea’s parent group controls 47 other shopping centres worldwide, at 37,000sq metres Livat is just over a third of the size of its typical site and its first in the UK. Livat also houses Ikea’s only high street 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 rent-by-the hour retail or events space, alongside an Ikea’s outlet.

“This is the first step on our journey to develop more city centre locations,” said Cindy Andersen, managing director of Ikea’s parent group’s property arm, Ingka Centres, which bought the 1980s site. “This was a perfect opportunity to refurbish and existing location which has been established for a long time and taking the next step to put some new energy into the place.”

The mall, which Ikea spent £170m on buying and redeveloping, will include a small market hall for local food pop-ups alongside Ikea’s own Swedish Deli and two further cafes offering meatballs, open sandwiches and coffees.

Brightly coloured seating on a stairway below a repaved atrium will lead to a locally run cafe above the mall, which sits beside a revamped 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 £1bn on expanding in the capital over the next three years.

Andersen said Ikea was “actively searching” for more urban sites to redevelop in cities in the UK and across Europe and North America.

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

The Hammersmith store opens a year later than expected after works to knock through smaller stores and a former Debenhams and a basement area, which was once several stockrooms, took longer than expected during the pandemic.

Peter Jelkeby, the manager of Ikea’s UK retail business, said the retailer would look at a range of opportunities to fill in gaps and make the furnishings store more accessible in London as shopping habits change. More than 44% of the group’s UK sales were online last year compared to 19% in 2019.

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

“Hammersmith is a new way to reach consumers. It is going to be accessible to quite different shopping behaviour … I am optimistic about physical [store] space but it needs to be in harmony with digital sales.”

He said Ikea expected the furniture market to continue to grow, even if there was a slow down from the “extreme demand” for certain kinds of products, such as desks and office chairs, which was seen during the pandemic lockdowns and the switch to working from home.

“It’s a volatile market but we are fairly optimistic,” Jelkeby said. He admitted that securing supply and transport of a whole range of products was “still challenging” and it was not clear how long the issues would last.

Ikea said it expects price inflation of 10% to 11% in the UK and Ireland this year, although some products have risen by as much as 50%.

Jelkeby said: “We have been absorbing a lot of cost increases and inflation is going to [continue] to be around us. We will continue to become more efficient and the consumer will decide if we are competitive.”

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Ikea’s Hammersmith store is a step on from Ikea’s previous high street formats in the UK, all of which have now closed, such as the small store based around planning kitchens or bathrooms in central London’s Tottenham Court Road and Bromley, south-east London.

The store, which houses 18 room sets, compared to more than 30 in a typical Ikea store, featuring large items that can be ordered for home delivery as well as room design services and 1,800 different smaller items to takeaway, from mugs, artificial plants and kitchen kit to technology such as lamps featuring a Sonos smart speaker. The biggest item that can be taken home immediately is a coffee table.

By Sarah Butler