Ikea store opens in Ljubljana amid and despite epidemic

Ljubljana – Swedish furniture group Ikea opened its much-anticipated first store in Slovenia on Thursday. “Although this is not an opening we expected, we are grateful to be here today,” Sara Del Fabbro, the CEO at Ikea South East Europe, said at today’s inauguration event in Ljubljana’s BTC shopping district amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said that the ground for the store had been broken a year and a half ago while the store was now ready to welcome the first shoppers.

Ljubljana’s store is Ikea’s first in Slovenia, fifth in SE Europe and one of more than 450 around the world, said Del Fabbro.

The head of the Ljubljana store, Cas Lachaert, said this was “one of Ikea’s most sustainability-oriented stores”, pointing to solar panels on the roof, which will be turned green, while rainwater will also be collected.

With all the staff to be tested once a week and all the other safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus in place, he believes the store is safe for shopping.

The arrival of the Swedish giant in Slovenia was also welcomed by Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković, who stressed that Ljubljana was attractive to foreign investors.

Both Janković and Swedish Ambassador Dag Hartelius, who covers Slovenia from Hungary, said that now Slovenians would no longer have to drive to Austria, Croatia or Italy to shop in Ikea.

“Perhaps the Swedish Embassy will find its offices on these premises of over 30,000 square metres, so the ambassador does not have to drive from abroad anymore,” Jankovič joked.

To ensure safe shopping and avert long queues in front of the store, Ikea introduced advanced bookings for in-person shopping in the first weeks after the opening.

The number of shoppers is capped at 700 with Ikea estimating that they will spend roughly two hours on average browsing around the store.

Once the epidemiological situation normalises, the Ljubljana store is expected to attract around two million visitors a year.

Online sale was also to be launched today, with purchases to be picked up in Ljubljana and Maribor, or delivered.

The store with some 22,000 square metres of the shopping area stocks about 9,500 products. It was to open at the end of 2020, but the plans were thwarted by the pandemic.