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This article was published 19/5/2020 (242 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Like many Winnipeggers, Marcelo Matos has spent the last couple months working from home. With all the extra time spent indoors, Matos has been dreaming up plans for a home office space — a plan he was able to put in action Tuesday as IKEA reopened its stores in four major cities across the country with strict social-distancing rules.
"This desk, some footrests and some chairs," Matos said on his way out of the store. "I was (waiting for) IKEA to open so I can get my home office operating."
IKEA stores across the country closed proactively March 18 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, spokesperson Kristin Newbigging said in an email Tuesday. All staff were retained, and the locations in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Quebec City were able to welcome them back, with PPE provided, for Tuesday's grand reopening.
Lineups were long on opening day as crowds of more than 50 expectant shoppers wound through the fenced space outside the store entrance. Staff ushered small groups through the revolving doors, no more than two shoppers per group, to ensure enough room in the store for appropriate social distancing. Capacities in the store are limited, evaluated in real time and can change throughout the day, Newbigging said, meaning long lines and long waits during busier hours.
Still, for shoppers like Matos, the wait was worthwhile to finally outfit his home office space. He said he tried ordering products online after the IKEA closed, but found it would take up to six weeks to receive them. He shopped around at other stores too, but ultimately decided to wait until IKEA reopened its doors.
Newbigging said during the two-month shutdown online sales reached an "unprecedented" level, which led to delays for some would-be customers, and left many looking forward to wandering through the unending store aisles once again.
Anne-Marie Allan and her husband have been waiting to get to work on a bunkhouse and shed for their property in Victoria Beach.
"We needed to get the sink from IKEA and, of course, I've been trying to order online and it's been impossible," Allan said, wheeling a full cart out of the store.
"The only reason I'm here today is because we're doing this building at the cabin, otherwise I would not be at IKEA."
Allan said she arrived with a list of necessities, but in typical IKEA fashion left with more than she was expecting.
"When I went inside and I found out how well organized it was — and not that many people — then I got the other things that I'm going to eventually need for this, too," she said.
New health and safety measures at the store include strict two-metre social distancing guidelines, including floor and sidewalk decals to keep people lining up properly separated, as well as frequent sanitization of surfaces, plexiglass screens at checkout counters and hand sanitizer provided throughout the store. Staff and third-party vendors are also temperature-checked upon entering the building.
The restaurant and play area remain closed, for the time being. The IKEA bistro is open for takeout only, and seating has been removed from the dining area.
Matos and Allan said they found most shoppers working hard to respect health-and-safety guidelines, and found the store's sprawling layout made social distancing easier to manage.
"I think it's pretty good — people are respecting the social distancing, sometimes there's no way to keep two metres away but it's fine," Matos said. "I think people are trying to not touch everything like we used to do."
There's no word yet on when the rest of Canada's IKEA locations will reopen their doors. Newbigging said the company is working with local and provincial health authorities to ensure stores open in a responsible manner and that all health-and-safety regulations are met.
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.