An Ikea store in Greater Victoria? What’s Swedish for never?

Inte att hända. That’s Swedish for not gonna happen. As in: There are no plans, possibilities or even a weenie little hope that Ikea will open so much as a pickup counter in Victoria, never mind one of its behemoth home-furnishing stores.

There was a tiny flake of potential in February, when Business in Vancouver magazine quoted Ikea Canada president Stefan Sjöstrand as saying the chain had plans to open five to 10 smaller pickup stores for customers who ordered items online, with a bit of retail to browse through.

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“The pickup stores will be on the West Coast and all over the country,” Sjöstrand was quoted as saying. And hey, Ikea opened its first Canadian store in Richmond in 1976 and a much tinier satellite store in Victoria at 1010 Yates St., which operated from 1985 until Aug. 31, 1988.

Those were lyckliga tider — happy times — for people who like using allen keys to assemble inexpensive furniture sold in flat boxes.

In the front-page story that announced the Victoria store’s closure 27 years ago, company president Anders Berglund told the Times Colonist that the store was “a disappointment.” It’s something he can’t remember saying when contacted recently in Hawaii.

Berglund suggested it was disappointing not to be able to provide what customers wanted — such as a good selection of Ikea sofas, even though the store was one-10th the size of the Richmond store. Customers would complain that people could buy certain items in Vancouver, so why not here? he recalled.

“It was a fabulous little store,” Berglund said, but there was always concern about the modest size of the Victoria market, given Ikea’s pricing structure and the need for high-volume sales.

“We need a larger facility,” Berglund said back then. “We examined all kind of possibilities, including reducing the range of products carried, but found the result unsatisfactory.”

He doesn’t know if there’s anything Victoria residents could do to make a full-size Ikea feasible here, or where it would go on the Island. The B.C. Ferries docks? Langford? Victoria?

“It’s nobody’s fault. It’s geography,” he said.

Nevertheless, some Victorians have aldrig riktigt gett upp hoppet — never really given up hope — for Ikea’s return, as Times Colonist headlines over the decades attest:

  • New rumours of Island store untrue: Ikea (Feb. 26, 2014)
  • Phase 2 on track but don’t expect a new Ikea store at Saanich mall (Jan. 6, 2012)
  • Swedish obsession: No matter how often Ikea says it has no plans to open a store here, some Vancouver Islanders refuse to take no for an answer (Nov. 3, 2007)
  • Bad news for Ikea hounds (April 30, 2005)
  • Ikea has no plans for Langford locale (Jan. 17, 2002)
  • Ikea denies trying to return (Aug. 28, 1999)

Here to crush those hopes are pronouncements from Ikea public relations manager Madeleine Löwenborg-Frick from Burlington, Ont., headquarters.

The truth hurts — sanningen gör ont — but tell it we must.

“While we are continually reviewing our expansion opportunities in Canada, there are no plans for a store in Greater Victoria or elsewhere on Vancouver Island at this time,” she said.

But what about those plans for five to 10 smaller, satellite ordering stores, as suggested by Ikea Canada’s president?

“Just to clarify, Ikea is not looking to open 10 new stores in Canada. This has been misreported. There has been confusion with regard to our ambition to open pickup points, which will be locations where customers can pick up their goods closer to where they live.

“These pickup points will not be stores. There has also been speculation as to how many locations Ikea will be launching in 2015, which has not been determined.”

So how did Victoria ever get an Ikea back in the mid-1980s?

“This was a test pilot initiated by the Richmond store manager at the time, not Ikea globally, and was not successful at that time.”

Which means Victoria and Vancouver Island residents will continue to enjoy the option to göra en dag av det i Richmond — make a day of it at Richmond’s Ikea and pay $139 in return B.C. Ferries fares for a single adult and car.

Or order online and take your chances on what gets delivered. Delivery charges to Victoria start at $59 on orders under $500 and peak at $129 on orders of more than $3,000. (It’s the same for returns.)

Since we were already talking, we thought we’d ask Löwenborg-Frick a few other questions — put her in the hot stol, so to speak:

Are there specific criteria for locating new Ikea stores?

“The main criterion is determining market potential, which for us includes a complex combination of many factors. However, given the competitive/proprietary nature of this information, it is not something we share.”

Is “one million in population” within driving distance of an Ikea a strict rule for opening a store?

“There is not a single factor that determines a market’s potential for us. Again, for us it is a complex combination of many factors. Population is, of course, one of them. However, the number that you have suggested is not a concrete number we work with.”

Can you tell us what percentage of sales, roughly, at the Coquitlam and Richmond Ikeas originates from Vancouver Island?

“As a private company we do not publicly dissect our business in this way.

“In fiscal year 2013-14, Ikea Canada’s sales increased by 5.2 per cent.” (Berglund, who was co-owner of the Seattle Ikea until 2007, told the Times Colonist that when the Portland Ikea opened, it took about 12 per cent of business away from sales in the Seattle store. )

Any plans to provide an Ikea bus service from Victoria to the Mainland, something that was once run by Pacific Coach Lines?

“Demand for the service was declining in 2012 and was reduced from twice weekly to twice a month, to once a month, to once every three months. The service was not renewed, as the interest wasn’t there.”

But in mid-March, a possible turnaround was in the works: “Yes, we are in the process of revisiting running a Victoria bus trip. The details have not been finalized, but will be posted on our site when they are.”

Are there only 12 Ikeas in Canada? And none on the East Coast?

“This is correct.”

What is the average store size? Has that grown over the years?

“Our stores vary roughly between 240,000 and 469,000 square feet. The newest wave of stores are larger than the older stores in Canada.

“The increase in size is, as mentioned, to accommodate our growing business. We have increased warehouse space to ensure products are available to take home, added inspirational room settings and remodelled our showrooms and market halls.”

How frequently do you add stores?

“In November 2013, we opened Ikea Winnipeg, which was the first new market Ikea Canada entered since 1982.”

It’s also the smallest centre for Ikea in Canada. In the 2011 census, Winnipeg had a population of 730,000.

The Vancouver and Toronto markets have two and three stores respectively.

Löwenborg-Frick said Ikea Canada has a “conservative” approach to expansion.

“We approach our business with a long-term view and do not rush into new markets. Over the last years, our focus has been to better serve our loyal customers by relocating and remodelling our existing stores.”

And here it comes again (brace yourself): “While we are continually reviewing our expansion opportunities in Canada, there are no concrete plans for a new store in any market at this time.

“The ambition is to make Ikea more accessible to the many Canadians through a multi-channel environment.

“This will be accomplished by examples such as increased service offers, pickup points and an improved e-commerce interface, all resulting in our customers having easier access to our products.”

So, Ikea fans, inte hâlla andan — that’s: “Don’t hold your breath” in you know what.

kdedyna@timescolonist.com

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