Sales anything but flat as IKEA hitting Tiger era levels

Pictured on the IKEA opening day at Ballymun were IKEA girls, Emma Cullen, Muirreann Judge and Maria Morris

Paul Melia

IKEA bosses last night said the number of customers at its new Dublin store is hitting Celtic Tiger-era levels.

Yesterday the Swedish retail giant announced that 100 new jobs would be created for at least the next two months to cope with the staggering demand for designer furnishings from Irish shoppers.

Numbers are averaging at more than 15,000 people a day -- although IKEA is not completely recession proof, as overall spending is slightly less than expected.

Store manager Garry Deakin last night told the Irish Independent that on the best days, spending was 2.6pc below targets but that he expected sales of big ticket items, including furniture and kitchens, to ramp up in the coming weeks.

Sales were 35pc above expected levels, he said, and customer spending was increasing as each day passed.

Some 168,374 customers have gone through the store in just 11 days, averaging 15,306 per day.

And last Saturday 17,573 people chose to spend the day in retail therapy.

Over the bank holiday weekend, the store was forced to turn customers away such was the demand.

However, IKEA last night confirmed that the numbers of people flocking to the Belfast store has fallen.

Mr Deakin said sales from southern customers in Belfast had fallen "more than we expected".

At 31,500sqm -- the size of five-and-a-half football pitches -- it's the biggest shopping outlet in the country.

"Every day we have about 2,800 people in the store at any one time," Mr Deakin said. "Each day the average spend per customer is getting higher and higher.

"People come in during the first few days and check out the big ticket items like kitchens and furniture.

"Then they shop around, and about 12-14 days after opening the furniture sales start.

"We expected annual sales at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom to be €125-€127m annually. We revised them to €100-€105m now.

"But this (kind of activity) is what we would have expected if we had opened three-and-a-half years ago. Of course, this may not continue. We had 12,924 on Thursday, but we could end up with 10,000 next Thursday."

Irish customers are also spending longer in the store, but a lot of this is explained by the novelty factor -- the average time spent is 2.20 minutes, compared with 1.48 in other Ikea stores.

Some 500 people are currently employed at the store, and applications for the 100 extra jobs can be made at until next Saturday.