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Larry Thomas

Ikea to open 36th U.S. store in Charlotte, N.C.

Displays include nearly 50 room settings

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Swedish retailing giant Ikea is set to open its 36th U.S. store here this week as the company continues its aggressive expansion into the Southeast.

Ikea
Ikea's room settings often include juvenile products, like this Trofast storage piece.
This Ikea area features juvenile beds and bedding.
This Ikea area features juvenile beds and bedding.
This room setting, built with Ikea
This room setting, built with Ikea's Malm bed, is a tween's dream.

The 356,000-square-foot behemoth, which includes 49 room settings and three model home interiors, will be the Top 100 retailer's fifth store in the fast-growing region. And a sixth Southeastern store is scheduled to open this summer in Tampa, Fla.

During a tour of the store for members of the news media, Ikea officials said they remain optimistic the store will do well despite a recession that has hammered other home furnishings retailers throughout North America.

"We started planning for this store three years ago, and we're sticking with our expansion plans regardless of what's going on with the rest of the economy," said Joseph Roth, director of public affairs for Ikea North America. 

Roth noted that Ikea's North American sales totaled $3.16 billion in 2008, up from $2.9 billion in 2007.

The Charlotte store, which will have more than 400 employees (Ikea calls them coworkers), includes bedroom  dining room, home entertainment and home office furniture, as well as mattresses, metal beds, and leather and fabric upholstery.
 
Much of its furniture is displayed in room-like settings, and not all of it is Scandinavian styling. The lineup  includes a number of traditional, transitional and country pieces - most of which are flat-packed and can be taken home immediately by the consumer.

Home delivery, assembly and installation services are available for an extra fee.

In addition to the room settings, the store also has several "work areas" where consumers can design certain pieces of furniture on their own by choosing from a variety of finishes and styles.

Roth said all of the furniture is made exclusively for Ikea on a private-label basis. In fact, there are no brand names anywhere in the store, except in the kitchen products area, where Whirlpool appliances are touted. (Ikea also claims it sells everything for the kitchen, including the kitchen sink.)

Other features of the store include a 350-seat restaurant that opens 30 minutes before the rest of the store, a supervised play area for children 37 inches to 54 inches tall, and 1,700 parking spaces.

The store will open to the public at 9 a.m. Feb. 18, and the grand opening will include appearances by Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and Ikea U.S. president Mike Ward. Entertainment for those waiting in line ill begin at 6 a.m. that day, and Roth said Ikea will allow consumers to beginning lining up as early as 9 a.m. today.

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