4,000 customers line up for Ikea Halifax grand opening

Thousands of people lined up early today hours before the opening of the new Ikea store in Dartmouth, N.S. — despite criticism the Sweden-founded retailer could take business away from local furniture stores.

Among those looking to get into Ikea Halifax (the name of the store even though it’s in Dartmouth) after the 9 a.m. AT opening were hundreds who had camped out the night before.

Some of the 300 new employees banged thunder sticks and cheered as 4,000 customers wandered through the 330,000-square-foot store.

Dartmouth was home to the first Ikea in North America, but it closed in 1988 because of sluggish sales. The newly opened store is now the retailer’s only location east of Quebec. 

Gabriela Lopez Vuran arrived in the lineup at 8 p.m. on Tuesday and, even though she’s 32 weeks into her pregnancy, she spent the night on the ground in front of the store.

“I love camping so this is more or less — I brought my sleeping bag, my maternity pillow, blankets — so I am feeling good,” she said.

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Gabriela Lopez Vuran is 32 weeks into her pregnancy, yet lined up for more than 12 hours before the store’s official opening at 9 a.m. AT. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Lopez Vuran, originally from Mexico, moved to Canada in 2011 and recently to Halifax. She said she misses going to the retailer in Toronto.

“I love Ikea. I love the food, I love the furniture — everything,” she said.

Less than 30 minutes after it opened, the store was at capacity, with many more people waiting to get in.

Among those criticizing the retailer’s entry into the Dartmouth retail scene was resident Sandy Hiltz.

“I personally will not be shopping there. I like to support small business,” Hiltz said on CBC’s weekly call-in show Maritime Connection.    

However, Jim Cormier, director of the Atlantic Canada branch of the Retail Council of Canada, said retailers who offer similar products to Ikea’s have already been competing for years.

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Halifax Mayor Mike Savage was on hand for the official ribbon cutting on Wednesday. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Cormier, whose council represents both small and large businesses, also argues that Ikea Halifax is a “destination retailer.”

He said people who will be driving from four or five hours away will be staying in hotels and spending money at local businesses, and will likely even go shopping at local retailers if they don’t find what they’re looking for at Ikea.

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Thousands of people streamed into the 330,000-square-foot store Wednesday morning. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Margaret Taylor, from Hammonds Plains, and her friends lined up at 2 a.m. Wednesday and dressed in Ikea garb.

Taylor said she even made a trip to Ikea in Ottawa to buy the store’s signature bags to make some elements of her costume.

“It is a big deal,” she said.

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Margaret Taylor said she made a trip to Ikea in Ottawa to buy the store’s signature bags to make some of her costume elements. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Rosalind Downey drove about an hour from Debert, N.S., to be in Dartmouth Crossing for the opening. Her message to naysayers is: “Don’t knock it till you try it.”

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