Think of Oxford Street and you instantly conjure up images of tightly packed fashion chains, crappy tourist tat shops and, according to the council, the comical mound at Marble Arch. What you’re almost certainly not thinking of is Scandi megastore IKEA, with its flat-pack wardrobes, carparks the size of Luxembourg and, of course, meatballs (you can keep the Dime bars). Until now, that is, because it looks highly likely that IKEA will launch an Oxford Street store.
The highlight (or lowlight) of Oxford Street was always Topshop, with Philip Green’s flagship store occupying one of the street’s most desirable ‘units’. Kate Moss would no doubt be seen launching a new product line, or bizarrely snogging her billionaire chum. But fast-forward to 2021 and Topshop is in administration and has disappeared from the high street altogether, while the prestigious 214 Oxford Street frontage is covered over and fenced off.
IKEA have reportedly stepped in with £385 million to snap up the shop, which will no doubt be welcomed by Top Shop parent Arcadia, which has extensive debts to pay off not to mention an employee pension pot that was woefully underfunded. But what will IKEA get?
IKEA have reportedly stepped in with £385 million to snap up the shop...
They can plane the Swedish flag right in the centre of the retail universe, but more importantly they have the perfect spot for their new strategy: smaller high street stores.
Just as Waitrose and Sainsburys morphed into Little Waitrose and Sainsburys Local to branch out from their superstore models, this is now being aped by other out-of-town retailers. B&Q is now regularly popping up in town centres, basically selling the high margin fun stuff like kitchens and wallpaper rather than six-foot plywood sheets or whatever fills the rest of a retail park B&Q.
IKEA has been dipping its toe in the waters lately, launching a kitchen and bedroom planning studio on Tottenham Court Road as well as plans for a big launch in Hammersmith, and now appears to be on track to let the concept loose on a grander scale. Oxford Street is the perfect springboard.
IKEA has been dipping its toe in the waters lately...
A spokesman for the meatball and bookcase specialists told the press ““We are on a journey to create a new Ikea that is even more affordable, accessible and sustainable”
“As part of our accessibility plans in the UK & Ireland, we are constantly looking for new ways to better meet our customers’ needs. This includes investing in our online offer, rebuilding and adapting existing Ikea stores, and exploring different formats and locations as part of a new city centre approach. We review our expansion strategy on an ongoing basis but have no plans to share at this time.”
But let’s face it, the only thing that really matters here is this: will there be meatballs?
We can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be! The iconic foodstuff is as closely associated with IKEA as Billy Bookcases and European bed sizes. They’re aslo marketing gold, it’s telling that one of our most-read articles of lockdown was the story of IKEA revealing their meatball recipe.
Meanwhile, here's the recipe for meatballs...
As yet there isn’t an opening date, though we imagine that it’ll be as soon as IKEA can possible manage given that Britons are flocking back to the shops and, despite The Mound, Oxford Street is starting to feel more like its old self, albeit with some notable gaps.