x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Moving Abu Dhabi Ikea from Marina Mall to Yas Island

The Life: Ikea's store manager discusses moving the furniture giant out to Yas Island.

James McGowan oversaw Ikea's relocation. Silvia Razgova / The National
James McGowan oversaw Ikea's relocation. Silvia Razgova / The National

James McGowan is the store manager of Ikea on Yas Island where he works for Al Futtaim, the furniture store's retail partner in the UAE. He talks about packing up at Marina Mall and moving out.

How did the move go?

I would say we have had a pretty smooth transition. We had a project team and Ikea helped and pointed us through the process. They are used to these big moves.

Why bother moving premises in the first place?

It depends on the circumstances for a retailer. For us, the development of Abu Dhabi was a crucial factor. Everything is moving out towards the airport. In Marina Mall we also became more of a convenience store than a destination, which is not our goal. Marina Mall was quite restricting in what we could offer the customer.

What was the first thing you considered when you decided to look for another location?

The most important thing for us was the commercial terms. Out of the options we had, we thought this location suited us best. It was the most financially viable, so the first thing we did was look at feasibility.

How do you work out size?

Ikea stores are pretty prescriptive. So we feed in our sales volumes expectations for the next five years and, because Ikea are good at building stores, they have a formula that if you are going to hit a certain figure, then that will decide the dimensions of the store.

What is something to look out for when moving?

It depends on the terms of the agreement between your existing landlord and the new, but you need to build in double rent in your forecasts. Even if there is not an overlap in the two stores opening, there will be an overlap in closing the old store and returning it to its original condition for the landlord. Stores come as shells and retailers add all the fixtures and fittings, so these then have to be removed before the store is given back. This takes time.

How do you manage to uproot staff?

Having been based in Abu Dhabi for 10 years, we have a lot of staff that live in the centre of the city. So we put on a couple of buses a day so that people are not inconvenienced by the move.

Have you increased staff?

We've gone from 122 to 265 staff. We still have the same functionality in terms of our teams, we just had to make each one a little bigger.

Was it all worth it?

Our footfall has definitely exceeded expectations. We were aiming for an average 120,000 to 130,000 visitors a month and in April we slightly exceeded that level. The customers are spending more because they have the whole offering under one roof. Now the customer comes to our store and anything they can see, they can take home straight away.