Ikea, the Swedish furniture chain, is planning to expand into Oman and Qatar with a new store in each country, the company’s operations and project manager in Dubai said on Monday.
The furniture and interiors sector has been affected by the current economic crisis, but not to the extent that it had curtailed expansion plans, said Siddarth Bhide in an interview with UAE daily Gulf News.
Besides expanding into to Oman and Qatar, Ikea was also planning to open new stores in Saudi Arabia, where it already operates in Riyad, Jeddah and Dammam, he added.
Ikea’s Abu Dhabi branch in the Marina Mall would also be expanded, bringing it up to the size of its largest Dubai store, Bhide revealed.
"Our business continues to grow, but at a lower rate than it did the past three years. In the current environment this is a proof of the strength of the Ikea brand and the loyalty of our customers," Bhide said.
The Gulf expansion announcement closely follows the appointment of new Ikea chief, Mikael Ohlsson, who will succeed the present CEO Anders Dahlvig in September this year.
The move is in line with Ohlsson’s plans for Ikea's focus to switch to emerging markets such as China and Russia, rather than contunue to grow in the already saturated markets of the US and Europe.
Ikea’s largest store in the Middle East is at the Dubai Festival City Mall, which was opened in November 2005. However, Ikea started it’s UAE operations in 1991 on Zabeel Road, before moving to Deira City Centre in 1995.
"Ikea is unique in many aspects, one of them being the buying process that is different compared to other retailers," Bhide said.
"The Ikea design is unique in this market as it is simple, timeless, functional and affordable, thus acceptable to the majority of people," he added.
Currently, Ikea has a presence in 32 countries and operates a total of 296 stores.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.