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IKEA Bahrain store. Inset: Fatima Gustafson

IKEA Bahrain 'will have products to meet needs of market'

MANAMA, August 28, 2018

By R Sushil Nair
IKEA Bahrain store, which is getting ready to open soon in Salmabad, will have products to match the needs of the local market, says a senior official.
“As people move through our ‘Inspiration rooms’ they will be able to touch and feel products that were created keeping them in mind. We’ve truly focused on creating a better everyday life for the many people that will be part of the IKEA family,” says store manager Fatima Gustafson in an exclusive interview with TradeArabia.
IKEA Bahrain, the global chain’s first store in the kingdom, is set up on an area of 37,000 sq m making it the largest IKEA in the region. “We are happy to report that we have completed our fit-outs and will be having our family day shortly,” she says.
Overall, IKEA Bahrain will boast a 6,200-sq-m showroom, a 6,000-sq-m market hall for accessories, a 5,000 sq-m self-serve area and a 4,000-sq-m full-serve area. The bistro and Swedish food market will take up about 500 sq m of the total area.
The prominent free-of-charge play facility called ‘Smaland’ will come up on a 220-sq-m area, while the indoor 1,000 parking spaces will be spread over two levels. In addition, there will be 200 outdoor spaces.
The giant complex will also house a 650-seat restaurant, the biggest in the kingdom. “Also at our restaurant, we will cater to local tastes and sensibilities by introducing halal beef meatballs and other options like chicken and vegetarian meatballs,” adds Gustafson.
Excerpts from the interview:
What is the USP for the store? How different will it be from your other stores in the region or globally?
In simple words, our USP is sustainability at low prices. We want as many people as possible to afford our products. Moving closer to the East simple implementation is impossible, instead, we have to adapt. 
Keeping in line with the brand’s sustainability mission, the design of the Bahrain store features transparent roof hatches, minimised glazed areas, skylights and solvent-free paints. In addition, condensate recovery technologies will optimise water flow in lavatories to save 50 per cent of water consumed and an intelligent lighting control system will automatically control lighting levels to suit the outdoor environment.
On the products side, what are the major areas you will focus? Will there be any products tailored to Arab tradition and tastes? 
As a part of our global strategy, we visit thousands of homes every year. Witnessing how people live; talking to them helps us understand aspirations, tastes and preferences, and also the shift taking place in the market.
Armed with this knowledge, we’ve tweaked our products to match the needs of the market. For instance, we discovered that storage is a major necessity in Bahrain. We’ve tried to cater to this by introducing versatile storage solutions and people will discover this as they move through our “inspiration rooms”. Here customers will be able to touch and feel products that were created keeping them in mind. 
How many jobs is the store expected to create initially and in the next few years?
Recruitment at IKEA Bahrain began in September last year. At IKEA we believe in a value-based recruitment policy that is based strongly on providing equal opportunities to all. We're a diverse group of down-to-earth, straightforward people with a passion for home. By the time the store opens, we would have recruited 320 co-workers. Around 60 per cent of the current hires are Bahrainis and of these some are at managerial and group leader levels.
Do you plan to source products in-country or from the region for the store? Where will the majority of the items come from?
In addition to localised products, we have a range close to 8,000 articles. Each article has been created keeping in mind the form, function, sustainability, quality and low price. In order to do so, most of the work is carried out in our hometown of Älmhult in Sweden, in close collaboration with our suppliers. We share each other’s expertise, which strengthens our common knowledge about design, materials development, sustainability and distribution. This allows us to produce better products at lower prices.
However, at the same time, we are excited to collaborate with local suppliers to meet the halal requirements of our customers. This initiative is also in line with IKEA’s sustainability efforts aimed at making ‘a positive impact on people and the planet’ and to also promote the kingdom’s economy.
How do you plan to cater to the diverse clientele cutting across nationalities and different strata of society?
Ingvar Kamprad, our founder started IKEA in the late 1940s and he applied the lessons he learned in Småland to the home furnishings market.
Ingvar’s innovative idea was to offer well-functioning home furnishing products of good design at lower prices by using simple cost-cutting solutions that did not affect the quality of the products. Ingvar used every opportunity to reduce costs, and he scraped and saved in every way possible - except on ideas and quality. This is how the IKEA Concept began.
It is reported that the complex will also have a 650-seat restaurant. What will be the menu like? Will you cater to Arabic taste? Will there be something for the growing vegetarian clients?
To cater to local tastes and sensibilities the menu will not only include Swedish dishes, but also local favourites such as shawarma. There will also be healthy, organic and vegetarian options to appeal to our diverse customers. 
There are already 11 IKEA stores in the Middle East. How important is the regional market for you? What are your plans for further expansion in the region?
We’re driven to create homes to love. For us, good design is the right combination of form, function, quality, sustainability and low price. Simply put, IKEA home furnishing is beautiful, functional and affordable. Our stores carry a product range that creates solutions that are both relevant and affordable to consumers in their local market. These solutions contribute to how people live. And more importantly, to how they want to live.
As of July 2018, IKEA has over 418 stores in 49 markets. As is the case in Saudi Arabia, the store in Bahrain will be operated by Ghassan Ahmed Al Sulaiman Furniture Trading Company Limited. Under the Group, IKEA has opened several stores in Saudi Arabia and will even test various formats. We are, of course, excited to open our first store in Bahrain. It will be the largest in the region and we expect that this store will contribute and cater to the current need in the market. - TradeArabia News Service

Tags: retail | Store | Ikea Bahrain |

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