Ikea testing a city store format

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Getting to an Ikea store could get a whole lot easier for city dwellers if the retailer’s experiment in Germany turns out well.

The Swedish company best known for building big blue boxes surrounded by expansive parking lots on the outskirts of metro areas has opened a smaller store in Hamburg, Germany. The store’s target customer gets there by foot, bicycle or public transportation. The way shoppers get to the store, which opened in June, has affected what they buy. And sometimes people just drop in to eat at the store’s restaurant.

The amount of small items we sell in the store is by far bigger than the other stores. That’s a fairly profitable business for us, store manager Christian Mollerus told MarketWatch. On the other hand, we are still lacking a little bit [in] the furniture sales. … (P)eople believe that we don’t have furniture. We have to work with it.

Ikea says it is interested in taking the urban store format to other cities, including the United States.

The home-furnishing retailer isn’t the first big-box chain to slim down to fit into city spaces. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. both have urban stores.

Wal-Mart operates both Neighborhood Market and Wal-Mart Express stores. Neighborhood Market stores average 40,000 square feet, less a quarter of the size of Wal-Mart’s Supercenters, and the Express stores check in at about 10,000 square feet.

Target has opened eight CityTarget stores, including one in Chicago. These stores are still pretty sizable at between 80,000 and 100,000 square feet. The chain recently opened a TargetExpress store near the University of Minnesota campus. The new format is about 15 percent the size of a typical Target store. The company plans to open four more next year, three in the San Francisco Bay area and one in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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