The long wait is finally over — Ikea, the famed Swedish furniture brand, is setting up shop in Manila by the end of 2020. In partnership with the SM group, Ikea will be opening its ‘world’s largest store’ at the SM Mall of Asia complex.
The Long Wait is Over
Ikea’s entrance into the Philippine retail market is long overdue. The retail giant has been present in practically all major Asian markets for many years now, with Philippines as probably the last of the middle income Asian economies to open an Ikea store. Many of my fellow retailers have always wondered why it took this long for Ikea to open a store in the country. The Philippines has been consistently one of the fastest growing economies in the world over the past decade. We are also a young population with a majority now having entered the workforce. The middle class is growing, driven by OFW remittances, the expansion of BPO businesses, and opportunities in tourism and entrepreneurship. There has been strong demand therefore for low-price high-quality furniture pieces for apartments and middle-class housing. What better time for Ikea to enter?
My First-hand Experience with Ikea
I have some fond memories of visiting the huge Ikea store in suburban Bangkok early in 2011. This was a few months before the birth of my firstborn, and I was looking specifically for furniture pieces for the nursery/boys room that we were designing. As there were no good choices locally, I picked up a furniture set that looked like it was inspired from the movie ‘Monsters Inc’ which included a closet, chest, and shelf. I also bought a ‘Poang’, Ikea’s signature rocking chair, and a set of Mammut Children’s table and stools. It was only when I got to the checkout counter that I realized I was overseas and there was absolutely no way I could take all this furniture with me on the plane. Needless to say, I had to ask our hotel concierge to find me a shipping company to send all my packages to Manila.
In another instance, my wife and I took a side trip to Copenhagen after a business trip in Paris, and we spent one whole afternoon at a three-story Ikea store somewhere outside the city. I remember spending 200 Danish Krones (or about 1,500 PHP) for a taxi ride to the shop. And again we picked up more children’s items, such as small toys, play mats, utensils, plates, etc. Thank goodness for Qatar Airways’ generous baggage allowance that we somehow were able to carry everything with us back to Manila.
And again during my many weeklong study visits to Hong Kong in the last 2 years, I always managed to make a quick visit to the Ikea store in Causeway Bay. Although very small, the store has a good selection of Swedish snacks and packed gourmet meals, many of which are favorites of my family. And of course, no stop to Ikea would be complete without a taste of their classic hotdog and soft-serve ice cream!
A word of advice for Ikea — many international brands who set up shop in the Philippines sought to ‘localize’ their merchandise selection by modifying some of their pieces to suit the local market. By doing so, however, the brand loses its original flavor. The reason why customers patronize certain brands is to buy the products they are most well-known for. I would want Ikea to sell the same Swedish snacks here in Manila, and not an ‘Ikea-version’ of Chicharon or Boy Bawang. So I hope that the same Ikea that I visited in Bangkok, Copenhagen and Hong Kong, will be the same one I visit at the Mall of Asia in 2 years time. Can’t wait!