Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — During the media launch of Ikea Philippines, Swedish Ambassador to the Philippines Harald Fries joked that one of the most frequently asked questions at the Swedish Embassy is “When will Ikea be opening a store in the Philippines?” Furnishing fanatics will have to wait just a little bit more but at least it’s finally official: Ikea Philippines will open in late 2020.
Ikano (Philippines) Inc. has inked a long-term lease agreement with SM Prime Holdings and will be the largest tenant at the SM Mall of Asia. The 65,000-square-meter store, linked to the main mall, is the world’s largest Ikea store, mainly due to the fact that the warehouse, e-commerce facility, and call center will be housed there as well. It is already in construction and will be located in between the SM MOA Arena and SMX Convention Center.
Ikea already emphasized that the Philippine store would follow their philosophy of democratic design: a concept centered in Ikea’s products that combines function, form, quality, sustainability, and low price so “everyone can live better lives.”
“We would like many people to afford it,” says Georg Platzer, the market development manager of Ikea in Southeast Asia. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that they have [to have] big money and big wallets.”
The company is set to hire 500 Filipino workers for the store as well as local partners for logistics, waste management, banking, transport, and other support operations.
“We need people with a passion for people. We need people with a passion for home furnishing,” says Platzer.
Platzer also mentioned that the country’s growing economy as well as a robust housing and condo market is an entry point for the Swedish furniture retailer.
“It’s a super fast developing country and it’s about the right timing for Ikea to be part of it,” he says.
Ikea has 422 stores in 50 countries and employs 208,000 people worldwide.
CNN Philippines Life had a short chat with Platzer about their entry to the Philippine market and their current study of Filipino living behavior.
You mentioned earlier in your presentation that you’re studying how Filipinos live so you can address the market properly. What are some of your interesting learnings so far?
We have many findings. You love to socialize, you are family-centered, it’s many people living under one roof very often. Living room is very important for you as well as dining. You love to eat, certainly five times a day. You are a snacking people. Many activities in one room together. You love to decorate, you love to collect a lot of items.
We know that you have limited space, which is important for us because we’re going to have the right solutions. Many activities in one room together. We will have good solutions for people living in small space. If you’re five to six people living in 35 square meters, there’s everyday challenges in everything you do. I think we will have the right solutions for these people, to live a little bit better life, more sustainable and better organized.
Living in small spaces are prevalent in Southeast Asia, like in Singapore and Hong Kong as well. Is this something Ikea will be continuing to address as a trend or as a fixture in the business?
We started to look into this specific field of home furnishing already 20 years ago when we entered the big cities like Tokyo, Moscow, New York. We realized there are many people who live in small spaces because it’s so expensive, right? That’s the moment when we started to develop products and solutions to help these people live their lives in a better way, affordable also. More into solutions than in products. We have the 20 year advantage, so when we enter the Philippines, we know exactly what kind of challenges that you have, everything from laundry, dishwash, to cook, to sleep, doing different activities at the same time, lots of things going on, maybe there’s even a dog.
This is something that we’re really good in. Especially that we are not selling products, we sell solutions. And I think this is what people love about us. It’s something that keeps us alive because we need to keep our finger in the pulse of the people. We need to know where the future leads. How the next generation is going to live — that’s something our people are already thinking about. How will life look like in 2040? Do we still need TVs? Furniture? Or is it all integrated in your wall anyway?
Ikea is known for many collaborations such as with Hay and Ilse Crawford. Should we expect a collaboration with Filipino designers because the Philippines has a booming furniture industry?
There are many good Filipino designers. I’ve been here two and a half years and I’ve seen beautiful designs. The trick here is that Philippine design is not accessible for many people. It’s on a very high price level, with all reasons of course. It’s limited editions so if there’s [a] designer who desires to work for Ikea they should get in touch with Ikea of Sweden. I would love to sell something which is designed by a Filipino one day. We have designers from Japan, Korea, China, and even Thailand. So why not a Filipino designer? But it’s not up for me to decide.
Find more updates on the Ikea Philippines website.