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Key dates on the long and winding road that leads to the largest IKEA store in Canada

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BEFORE IKEA announced four years ago that it was coming to Winnipeg, some long-suffering fans had undoubtedly sought divine intervention to convince the Swedish furniture maker to enter the Manitoba market.

While there’s no tangible proof a higher power had any direct role in creating the biggest retail-related frenzy in Winnipeg’s history, we can point to a number of earthly developments that made next Wednesday’s much-anticipated grand opening possible.

When the ribbon is finally cut, the Winnipeg store will be the 12th in Canada for the world’s largest furniture maker. (There are currently stores in Calgary, Edmonton, Coquitlam, Richmond, Burlington, Etobicoke, North York, Ottawa, Vaughan, Boucherville and Montreal.) Here’s a list of events that were crucial to IKEA’s decision:

 

1982

IKEA expands to Montreal.

At the time, nobody expected it would be another three decades until it entered a new Canadian market. Over that period, Winnipeg is at or near the top of IKEA’s catalogue sales in Canada.

 

2006

Behind closed doors, IKEA identifies Winnipeg as one of the markets into which it wants to expand.

A year later, it starts market research and a site-selection process. Winnipeggers are still in the dark, although they not-so-secretly hope IKEA will open a bricks-and-mortar location in the city.

IKEA regularly runs out of catalogues at its booth at the Home Expressions show each spring.

 

July 2007

Winnipegger Justin Phillips launches a Facebook group, "Bring IKEA to Winnipeg." Both he and his wife are longtime fans, regularly loading up their vehicle in Calgary or Minneapolis and even having IKEA parties. Over the next 1½ years, more than 6,000 people join the group.

"I like to think we had some impact on the decision, even though it’s probably pretty minute.

Six thousand people were voicing their opinions, saying they would shop there," Phillips says.

"IKEA would ship whatever you wanted to your house for under $100. Our friends would pick (their furniture) up from our house and we’d all split (the delivery charge)."

 

Dec. 15, 2008

The pre-Christmas miracle thousands of Winnipeggers had been praying for finally occurs — IKEA announces it’s coming to Winnipeg.

The Manitoba capital was always on IKEA’s radar, company spokesperson Madeleine Löwenborg-Frick says, but the company doesn’t take expansion plans lightly, opening just 20 stores around the world every year.

"Contrary to what some have maintained, we firmly believe Winnipeg can support one of our largest stores in Canada. We really do our homework to determine the sustainability and viability of our markets," she says at the time.

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz calls the $400-million development "a big win for the city," while Manitoba Premier Gary Doer says it represents "a great step forward."

 

2009

IKEA acquires a parcel of land to the southwest of Kenaston Boulevard and Sterling Lyon Parkway, part of a development to be known as the Seasons of Tuxedo.

The province and the city announce they will spend a combined $18.5 million to widen Kenaston Boulevard and Sterling Lyon Parkway. The province can recoup its investment almost immediately through sales and income taxes, while the city can get its money back through property taxes over less than four years.

 

2011

Construction begins on one of the biggest projects in Winnipeg’s history with hundreds of workers on site most days. The building is completely closed in during the summer of 2012.

 

June 2012

IKEA Winnipeg store manager Stephen Bobko announces he is looking for about 350 workers before the store opens. He is inundated with thousands of online applications within a couple of weeks.

 

Sept. 19, 2012

IKEA causes furniture fanatics all over Winnipeg to scramble to mark their calendars as it announces its new store will open on Nov. 28.

 

Fall 2012

Teams of IKEA workers from around the world descend on the store in fall to stock the shelves and install fixtures. In late October, the kitchen staff starts cooking its first batches of Swedish meatballs as the store goes into its final month of preparations. The most eagerly anticipated retail opening in Winnipeg’s history will finally happen. The company isn’t allowing anybody on the parking lot before 12:01 that morning, so if you’re planning on camping out for a few days for the door-crasher specials, don’t bother.

(Why would people want to do that? When the new store in Ottawa opened a year ago, one woman won a $10,000 gift card for waiting in line for five days.) Unlike store openings in other cities during warmer months, the company is worried about the possibility of extreme temperatures and it doesn’t want any of its customers being treated for hypothermia in the event of a deep freeze.

The first 1,000 people in line after midnight, however, will receive a gift box from IKEA, including an Allen key inside. If yours has a yellow Allen key, you’ll have a one-in-six chance it will unlock a $1,000 IKEA gift card or the grand prize of a $5,000 gift card.

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