Southampton: European Capital of Culture

Culture off the shelf…
March 28, 2008, 7:46 pm
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What could be more cultured than the latest handcrafted Scandinavian chic, sold in exclusive serene boutiques in our fine city?

Not a lot. Unfortunately, IKEA’s soulless flat-packed goods don’t quite fit that bill.

But yes – fanfare if you please – after years of conjecture it’s finally happening, Southampton is getting its very own IKEA store.

How the Southampton IKEA will look

Queue hordes of delirious shoppers who’ll willingly trample each other, and their own family if needs be, to get their hands on that must have bubble chair from this season’s catalogue – oh joy.

Now we appreciate this is genuinely exciting news for a lot of people, the allure of IKEA has always been mysteriously strong for the masses. The thought of being herded through a concrete maze by little arrows, your only reward a stale hotdog on a rainy Sunday afternoon, seems pretty tough to resist.

But have they really thought this through?

The Southampton IKEA store will be located on the old Pirelli site, adjacent to West Quay. The very same site that was once poised to offer us a world class concert arena with ice rink, along with numerous restaurants and amenities, will now offer little more than a few bedside tables and lamps. Coming in at a whopping 34,000 square meters, along with a 900-space multi-storey car park and 600-seat restaurant – this is no little corner shop. Imagine the St. Marys pitch laid out five times over and you start to get an idea just how big this Swedish invasion will be.The main objectors to the plans were unsurprisingly John Lewis and West Quay, who will both no doubt be hit where it hurts, as customers drift over to our Scandinavian cousins.

One of the main claims the dissenters made, bar loss of trade, was the volume of traffic that the new IKEA will generate – and they’ve got a point.

IKEAs are almost entirely situated in out-of-town locations with easy access to motorways and major transport links. This is for a reason – the amount of cars that head off to these stores on any given day is beyond staggering.

We know what you’re thinking, putting one in the middle of a town centre would surely be madness?

Well, yep, but hey – Southampton is going to give it a go.

If you thought it was bad getting into town on a normal Saturday morning – let alone a Saints matchday – get ready for it to get a hell of a lot worse.

Cabinet member for environment and transport Councillor Gavin Dick was full of beans at the prospect of the new store: “IKEA will be a draw not just for people in Southampton but for shoppers right across the south.”

Surely that’s the point Mr Dick? Can the city handle that kind of traffic? IKEA reported  that a rise of 15% is likely, which the council deemed not worrying enough to halt the plans.

John Lewis stood by their objection, but West Quay dropped theirs after agreeing for a walkway to be built between the shopping complex and the IKEA opposite – crafty.

With IKEA anticipating around 2.4 million visitors in its opening year, when they hit us in early 2009, it might just feel a bit more crowded around town with our new guests.

Just make sure you don’t get in the way of them and their bubble chair.


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