Swedish furnishing giant IKEA is looking into the possibility of opening a store in the Palestinian Authority, most likely in the city of Ramallah, Yedioth Ahronoth has learned.
Two senior IKEA executives visited the PA last month – Henrik Ekman, director of Inter IKEA Systems, which operates the chain's franchise stores outside Sweden, and International Sales Department Manager EhsanTurabaz.
The two met with Palestinian Economy Minister Jawad al-Naji for a discussion defined as positive, and pictures from the meeting where published in the Palestinian press.
Naji stresses the importance of joint projects between Palestinians and Swedish businesses, saying he was ready to supply any facility required for the implementation of these projects.
IKEA Israel CEO Shlomi Gabay estimated that the chain's sales in Israel would not be affected by the chain's expected entry to the PA. Chain officials stressed that Matthew Bronfman, one of the owners of IKEA Israel, was informed about the PA visit and talks.
Bronfman said IKEA Israel would be glad to help set up the Palestinian store if asked to do so.
One of the options being examined is using the new training facilities of the IKEA Academy, which recently opened in the central Israeli city of Netanya, to train the Palestinian IKEA workers.
"We'll be happy to let the Palestinian store use our training center to train its workers. It is one of the only centers in the world opened outside IKEA's European training center," Gabay noted.
In addition, an IKEA store or two in the Palestinian area adjacent to the Israeli stores may actually ease the logistics of transporting stock and goods to the stores.
Small IKEA stores in Jerusalem, Beersheba?Meanwhile, construction of the chain's third store in Israel, which is expected to open in the northern city of Kiryat Ata in the first quarter of 2014, in ongoing in full force.
Yedioth Ahronoth has further learned that IKEA Israel is looking into opening small stores in Jerusalem and Beersheba as part of the chain's new format, IKEA Point.
Global IKEA's operational plan includes the opening of three branches in Israel in the classic format of huge stores stretching over tens of thousands of square meters. IKEA's first store in Netanya measures 26,000 square meters (280,000 square feet) in size, and the second store in Rishon Lezion stretcher over 36,000 square meters (385,000 square feet). The Kiryat Ata store will measure 30,000 square meters (325,000 square feet) in size.
Global IKEA's feasibility study in Israel showed there was no room for opening a fourth giant store in the country, yet there is a worldwide trend to set up smaller 2,000-6,000-square-meter stores in certain countries. Such a store was opened last month in Puerto Rico, for example.
In Moscow there are talks of opening some 20 neighborhood stores or branches near railway stations, in addition to IKEA's three giant stores in the Russian capital and its suburbs. Stores have been opened in the Caribbean Islands as well as part of the new format.
"The stores of the new model are each focused on a category, for example a branch used to display and sell kitchens and nurseries," explains Gabay. "In addition, they serve as collection points for customers shopping online. Although there is no room for additional giant IKEA stores in Israel, the new format should be considered and we will do just that."