11 - 2008

Finally, IKEA comes to Denver

This exciting news flash came across my desktop on Wednesday:

Home furnishings retailer Ikea said Wednesday it will build a 400,000-square-foot store in Centennial.

But the Swedish company said it could take years before its first Colorado location opens. Construction of the Centennial store won’t begin until Ikea completes stores in Sommerville, Mass., Charlotte, N.C., and Tampa, Fla., and a distribution center in Joliet, Ill.

So, someday in the future, we’ll have an IKEA store in my hometown. Well, hometown-ish.

For the past decade, I’ve known Denverites who have traveled to California or Chicago to purchase their kitchen cabinets and cheap Swedish furnishings. Now, or in the 2010s, we’ll have our own.

Several years ago, out of curiosity, I e-mailed the company to ask why there isn’t a store here. After all, Denver is growing with in-migration of well-educated, fit, active young professionals, mostly dog owners, into sports. The company’s response was that we “didn’t have the demographics.” I laughed, because in my experience, many locals (like Americans everywhere) rush like lemmings to purchase trendy new designs. Soon we’ll have our chance.

Obviously, a store like IKEA has pros and cons.

The Cons

Bad news first:

  • IKEA is a big-box store. Their goods are made in cheaper countries and shipped to us. Their carbon miles must be enormous. The fuel and resources to build and operate the store are huge.
  • Worse, it’s a destination big-box store. Whereas people can go to a local Wal-Mart — or skip it — they will drive hundreds of miles to shop at IKEA.
  • Their low prices encourage consumption. I’ve only shopped at an IKEA once (back in 1998, when we had to take the bus from Manhattan’s Penn Station to a New Jersey location), but there was a definite sense of “Throw it in the cart! It’s only $xx!”
  • At least when I shopped there, the store carried a lot of plastic — little gadgets and accessories priced so low they were hard to resist, especially for your average, non-plastic-phobe consumer.

The Pros

Now for the good news:

  • IKEA does try to be environmentally friendly. They avoid formaldehyde, sell and recycle CFL bulbs, and actually charge customers 5 cents for every (plastic) bag.
  • IKEA’s cheapness actually pays off in less resource use (imagine that!). Check out this statement from the company’s social & environmental responsibility page:

      Our cost consciousness and resource efficiency result in less usage of raw material and less waste and discharges.

  • They try to engage in open reporting, and according to the comments on this page, allow or encourage “green” practices by employees at their stores.

What do you know about IKEA? Do you, will you or would you shop there?

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