Thousands line up in Halifax as Ikea opens first of 12 new Canadian stores

HALIFAX _ Several thousand people lined up early Wednesday to enter Ikea Halifax, as the firm launched the first of its 12 openings across Canada amidst circus performers, political speeches and a Swedish flag raising.

Hundreds had secured places at the front of a line that wound around the store in the Dartmouth Crossing retail district, while the shop’s 1,100-car parking lot was nearly full as people stood wrapped in blankets in a cool Nova Scotia mist.

Some of the shoppers were there for gift certificates, others for opening sales, while some people were just there to take it all in.

Jocelyn Adams said she and a friend had been in line since about 3:30 a.m.

“We’re looking for bedding and side tables,” she said. “It’s going to be fun exploring and checking things off our list. … We hear there’s a shelving unit on sale.”

Ikea’s return to the region had the city abuzz _ the opening dominated social media and other conversations, including one Twitter user who joked so many people lined up “because not a lot happens in Halifax.”

Liane Clouthier, a Dalhousie University student from Kitchener, Ont., joined her friend Amy Sutherland for over 16 hours in line to witness the ribbon-cutting, yet she was uncertain she’d actually purchase anything.

“It was spontaneous,” she said of her decision to wait in line.

“We were driving by and we said ‘We might as well stop and join them.’ I’m actually going to class soon, so I’m not even going inside.”

Ramesh Venkat, an associate business professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, said in an interview that the chain is benefiting from months of media hype leading up to the event.

“It’s really unusual. I can’t recall a situation like this where a retailer opens to such a large number of people,” he said, comparing it to Boxing Day sales in the United States.

Smith said that during travels with a curling team, she’d frequently stopped into the Montreal Ikea. She is the kind of shopper that the firm’s research had suggested would make Ikea’s return to the city viable after it closed a smaller shop three decades ago.

“We know people in the area already shop online and some even travel to Montreal. We’re super happy we can bring Ikea a little closer to them now,” said Marsha Smith, the president of the multinational’s Canadian division, in an interview.

Smith said she couldn’t provide an exact estimate on the number of people who were shopping on the store’s opening day, but said it was over 2,000 people by 9:30 a.m. local time.

After Mayor Michael Savage cut the ribbon, people rushed inside. As in a similar hyped opening in Winnipeg five years ago, several hundred staff emerged to clap noisemakers with the Ikea logo on them.