In Oman, IKEA will continue with its philosophy of providing stylish furnishings at affordable prices, says Vinod Jayan, managing director of Al-Futtaim IKEA UAE, Egypt, Qatar and Oman in an interview with Black & White at the launch of the first IKEA store in Oman and the ninth in the region.
“Be it before or after the pandemic, our focus is always on affordability and IKEA stands for affordability and modern stylish furnishings,” Vinod Jayan stressed.
IKEA’s commitment to Oman
To a query, Vinod noted that IKEA’s entry to Oman was not delayed. “I don’t think we are late. We believe that there’s always a time for everything. It’s a fact that we’ve been trying for years to enter the Sultanate.
Also, the Oman store has a size of 25,000 square meters, roughly 270,000 square feet. How many places can accommodate a store of this size? It shows IKEA’s commitment to the Omani market. We wanted the people of Oman to have the full IKEA experience.”
The founder of IKEA (Ingvar Kamprad) believed that “anyone should be able to afford stylish, modern furniture”. And with the opening of the first IKEA store in Oman, after being 30 or more years in the region, does the brand still hold firmly on to that belief, especially in the light of the many changes the pandemic has introduced to life on the home front in Oman as well as worldwide?
Absolutely. When you walk through the store and see the IKEA collection, you will realise why we focus on providing stylish furnishings at affordable prices. And, it doesn’t matter if it is before or after the pandemic, for us it is always focus on affordability. IKEA stands for affordability and modern stylish furnishings.
Will IKEA’s entry into Oman witness a revolution – in the sense, an introduction of new home furnishing ideas, inspirations and solutions in the Sultanate? If so, could you delve into that?
Yes, at IKEA, we don’t see it from a business point of view alone. When we visit Omani homes, we understand that there is a huge opportunity to create a better everyday life for the people, their needs, their storage and their living needs.
At the launch function, we displayed some makeovers in a video of a few local residents, which clearly displays our commitment to deliver what we promise; to deliver makeovers that will not only change the look of your homes, but also enhance the daily living.
Going back to the pandemic theme, the home, worldwide, has transformed into “offices, schools, gyms and playgrounds”. How would IKEA be adjusting their product offerings in this light?
Pre and post pandemic is a reality that all markets face globally, which one cannot control. From a brand perspective, we cannot control what happens in the world as that is driven by the macro-economic scenario. But what we can do is to make sure that we that we are the most affordable among the other competitors.
IKEA offers affordability because of our volumes. We have volumes and IKEA is a pioneer in flat packing. So a 40-foot container would contain 30 to 40 sofas depending on whether it is a three-seater or a two-seater sofa. We don’t do air or ship freight because of the costs involved. We handle our logistics, operations, and then there is also the ‘self-serve’ idea, which complements our affordability factor.
We encourage our customers to take the product home themselves. The full assembling instructions are there. So then you don’t pay anything for the delivery or assembling costs.
So we are blessed that we are loved in all the markets that we operate and we have a lot of turnover, which brings in a lot of volume. With volume comes buying benefits. So it’s kind of a happy circle.
IKEA globally has a reputation for providing standard and stylish quality products, which have evolved along with the community and societies we live in. Our designers ensure our customers get what they demand for their homes. What the customers require, we deliver.
Give us an idea of the set up in Oman with regards to size, location, accessibility, affordability and the like, plus a take on the digital innovation (available virtually) and customer experience solutions? Is IKEA making a late entry to Oman?
I don’t think we are late. We believe that there’s always a time for everything. It’s a fact that we’ve been trying for years to enter the Sultanate.
Now, if you see the size of the store — it’s a 25,000 square meter store; roughly 270,000 square feet. How many places can host a store of this size? It shows IKEA’s commitment to the Omani market. We wanted the people of Oman to have the full IKEA experience. The Oman outlet is a full-sized store and it’s got everything that you would see in the big stores of Dubai. It’s got everything. So this is a big store concept and this is going to be the flagship store for Oman.
And this isn’t the first time Omanis have shopped at IKEA. We’ve had a lot of Omanis shopping at IKEA. And we have had e-commerce/online sales and many Omanis were ordering online, especially from the US and also from Dubai. So I would say our Omani customers are not new to the IKEA experience.
Ordering online is a way of life now. Yet, our surveys reveal that 75 percent of the online customers say they want to touch and feel when it comes to home furnishing before they decide to buy.
Online, you’ll never be able to feel the texture of the fabric; you might think it is plain grey, not knowing the actual feel, look and colour of it. But, what we see, wherever we open physically, our digital sales also goes up in that area because customers feel confident. They feel if there is an issue, the physical store is there to clarify. In most families it takes three to four members to decide what colour/design their sofa should be.
Our store is our theatre. The customers get to see. That’s why I mentioned the digital sales have gone up wherever our stores are available physically.
What exactly would be IKEA’s expectations with it is first-ever launch in Oman at the Avenues’ Mall; will this be the start of bigger things/launches in the future? How do you foresee the future here in Oman?
Oman is a good market and we hope to serve it well and we definitely have big plans for the Sultanate. We will definitely expand in this market; expand in Muscat and expand in the whole of Oman.
One thing Oman can expect is much more refreshed homes. They can expect home furnishing expert advice. They can expect fantastic planning support for their homes. They can also see a lot more home furnishing accessories. Sometimes you don’t need to spend so much to have a refreshed home. A cushion, a curtain, some throws, a cover for example, candles, flower vases and the room will be completely transformed. When our customers walk through the show room we don’t say that we sell furniture, we sell ideas. And they themselves find the products that fit their ideas in our showroom. And IKEA’s philosophy has always been making ideal lives for many people.
How many IKEA stores are there in the region (GCC)?
Currently IKEA has five stores in the UAE — two stores in Dubai, two in Abu Dhabi and one in Al Ain. We have two stores in Egypt and one in Qatar. The store in Oman is the ninth one in this region.
Photo: V K Shafeer