Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Job applications pour in for IKEA positions

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IKEA's Winnipeg store isn't due to open up for at least five months, but it's already experiencing traffic jams.

Since it announced plans to hire between 300 and 350 workers last week, its website has been inundated with more than 1,000 online applications. People aren't merely applying to work on the shop floor or to ring up customers' purchases, they're looking to be part of the logistics, interior design, IT, graphics and food teams, too.

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"We've had a tremendous amount of online interest," said Stephen Bobko, store manager for IKEA Winnipeg. "There are a lot of professional career opportunities within the four walls."

Winnipeg has a lot of pent-up demand for IKEA -- its mail order and online business from the city has always been brisk -- and Bobko is confident the store will prove to be much more than your average retailer. He said he expects people to come from a minimum of 200 kilometres away, making it a unique tourist attraction.

"These people, if they're coming from Saskatchewan or western Ontario, are going to need hotels, gas for their cars and they're going to want to go out to eat," he said.

Tourism Winnipeg agrees. Its forecasts call for person-visits to Winnipeg to increase by 6.3 per cent next year, driven by a combination of the new IKEA store and the opening of the Journey to Churchill exhibit at the zoo. Visits are expected to jump by a further 6.5 per cent in 2014, the year in which the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is to open its doors, and 8.2 per cent in 2015.

IKEA has also proven it can play well with others, he said. Rather than crush other furniture retailers and leave them in its wake, Bobko said he believes IKEA will increase the size of the pie for everybody.

"What we've seen from a new market perspective (in other cities) is IKEA will restimulate or stimulate the home fashion and home furnishing business," he said.

Unlike other major projects that have seen their hoped-for opening dates whiz by due to construction delays, Bobko said IKEA remains on target for a late November or early December ribbon cutting.

"These are well-orchestrated, well-oiled projects. We put a lot of effort, thought and planning into what it's going to look like...

"Can we have a seamless entry into a market so we don't disappoint our customers? We do the homework and here we are."

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 1, 2012 B4

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