Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

IKEA's area getting active

Neighbours start to open shops

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If you were to ask Yogi Berra about the nearly four-month-old IKEA store in south Winnipeg, baseball's most famous quipster would probably say, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."

He'd be sure to get an argument -- as well as overwhelming agreement -- from the retailers in the midst of setting up shop in the Seasons of Tuxedo development next door.

Bouclair Home is the first of IKEA's neighbours to throw out the welcome mat. The Montreal-based home furnishings store will have a soft opening on Monday for its first Manitoba location and its grand opening two days later.

Sandra Bracken, Bouclair's vice-president of marketing, said customers at its 8,000-square-foot store will be very similar to IKEA's.

"We're going after the value shopper who loves fashion. Fashion is taking a page from clothing. People want their homes to be fashionable. They do so much entertaining in their homes, they want to feel good there," she said.

Bouclair has experience sharing real estate with the world's biggest furniture maker in both Boucherville, Que., and Coquitlam, B.C.

"There's a lot of growth and development (in south Winnipeg); it's a location that is very conducive (to good business) for a home retailer. We feel Winnipeg is underserved in the home-fashion area at a value price. We felt we needed to be in that area," she said.

Bouclair has more than 115 locations across Canada and will look to expand further in Winnipeg if the right real estate becomes available, Bracken said.

Another four stores in the same strip as Bouclair are in various stages of readiness.

Big-box outdoors outfitter Cabela's appears to be the next-closest to opening.

The parking lot outside the 72,000-square-foot store, located on the western part of the property, is crammed with worker vehicles, an indication the end of construction is near.

When Dan Dell'Acqua welcomes the first customers to his Pita Pit location next month, it will represent the culmination of a nearly four-year odyssey.

He started inquiring about space off Sterling Lyon Parkway when the IKEA rumours reached a fever pitch. He thought it would be "fantastic" to operate so close to them and the owner/operator will soon have his wish.

"We're very fortunate to have (IKEA). As a business owner being beside them, I feel pretty good about the whole thing. They'll definitely draw significant traffic," he said.

Dell'Acqua won't just be competing with the Swedish meatballs in IKEA's restaurant: His 1,150-square-foot outlet will share the same pad as three other eateries -- Subway, Taco Del Mar and Fatburger.

"I don't feel too threatened by having direct competition all around me. There is more than enough traffic for all of us. In a car full of teenagers, not everybody will want the same thing," he said.

The interest in hanging up a shingle adjacent to IKEA comes as no surprise to John Winter, a Toronto-based retail analyst. Not only does he expect it to be maxed out with as many retailers as possible, he believes many of them will be in the furniture business.

"IKEA has an enormous draw. One of the compelling factors in retail is the amount of traffic that's beside your door. The traffic that IKEA attracts is in that buying mood," he said.

Winter said the higher the concentration of similar retailers, the easier it is for consumers to compare and contrast and make informed decisions.

"You want to make the right choice when buying a couch or window dressings. It's not a commodity that you can consume and, a month later, you'll need something different. You're going to be living with it for years; you must get it right," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 15, 2013 A12

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