Ikea – Just Not Gonna Happen

Modern-Interior-Design-007We always want what we can’t have – especially when it comes to shopping.

Sure, Nashville rallied for a Trader Joe’s – and got one. Can’t buy wine there, but it’s still Trader Joe’s. Nordstrom is scheduled to open Sept. 16 at the Mall at Green Hills, followed by The Container Store.

Now we dream of H&M, the Swedish clothing retailer, Crate & Barrel and Neiman Marcus, if local listservs and Facebook petitions are a good barometer.

But what we REALLY want the Swedes to deliver to Music City is IKEA, the giant purveyor of moderately priced appliances, home accessories and, more famously, ready-to-assemble furniture.

But that’s not happening, at least no time soon, says IKEA spokesperson Joseph Roth.

“We need a population base of approximately two million people within a trade area of 40 to 60 miles to support one store,” Roth says.

Davidson County has a population of 619,000, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce figures show. Add the nine surrounding counties (Montgomery, Robertson, Sumner, Dickson, Cheatham, Wilson, Williamson, Rutherford, Maury), and the total population is about 1.6 million.

The mere concept of an IKEA precludes one for a city the size of Nashville, Roth adds, given that any potential metro area needs to be able to support a store of about 400,000 square feet on roughly 25 acres with all inventory on site.

“The key concept is pretty consistent worldwide,” Roth says. “What we offer is about 10,000 items, and one of the attributes of the IKEA concept is that you can buy it and take it home the same day.

“In order to display everything and store everything on site, we need a very big store, and to support a very big store you need a very big customer base.”

Elizabeth Champlin disagrees. The teacher has been watching the outcry for an IKEA rise since the first rumor swirled that the behemoth store might be headed this way.

“Nashville has enough money with 1.3 million people to support a store that size,” Champlin says. “Let’s not forget that customers from regions to the west, east and north of Nashville will travel there specifically to shop at IKEA. They are seriously underestimating their potential market share. They wouldn’t have any real competition in Nashville and beyond.”

If IKEA holds firm that Nashville’s demographics don’t fit its business model, it would stand to reason that a Crate & Barrel, with its similarly contemporary design, might seize the opportunity. If IKEA’s inventory appeals to college hipsters, then the more expensive household goods at Crate & Barrel appeals to those grads who’ve landed a job — and a pretty good one.

Chatter on the Facebook page “Bring Crate & Barrel to Nashville” details rumors that the company has an eye for Nashville. Store representatives, however, aren’t talking.

Does Nashville’s population base have enough folding money for a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes or Dolce and Gabbana aviator shades from Neiman Marcus?

Real estate watchers at Neiman Marcus are firm that there are no plans for a store in Nashville. Given the Mall at Green Hill’s trajectory, it would seem a good fit. The mall has had Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co for some time. Burberry and Juicy Couture were recently added, taking aim at younger consumers with money.

Now the mall is planning to place a pricy Michael Kors store, as well as a Tory Burch, where The Pottery Barn used to be.

Ginger Reeder, vice president of Neiman Marcus Group Services, says “no time soon” when asked if the company is considering Nashville.

“We are continually looking at new opportunities as they arise, but at this point in time we have not announced any plans to open a store in Nashville,” Reeder explains.

Nothing personal, Reeder says, at least when considering Nashville’s demographics.

“Actually, we go a little broader than demographics alone and explore psychographics as well,” Reeder says. “Often a market that is not right for us at one time becomes so at a later date.”

Psychographics differs from demographics — age and gender — further classifying population groups “according to psychological variables” such as attitudes and values, which could be loosely interpreted as predilection for a kind of style.

If Neiman Marcus thinks shoppers in Nashville want apple puppets gracing their sofas instead of Adrienne Landau pillows from Neiman Marcus, then Neiman Marcus might be more out of touch than they believe the population of Nashville to be.

Brian Gilpatrick, senior vice president of consumer insights and planning for Bohan Advertising in Nashville, says psychographics are relative to a company’s concerns

“It’s such a broad term. It depends on specifically what they are referring to as in terms of fashion, overall lifestyle,” Gilpatrick says. “Psychographics can be concerning anything. It could be concerning wellness, nutrition, fashion, politics.”

Because Nashville’s landscape has changed so dramatically in the last 15 to 20 years due to an influx from other regions, Gilpatrick adds, it might still be misunderstood.

“It’s is another way of saying attitude, but it depends on what those attitudes are specific to,” Gilpatrick explains. “Some may have a misperception of Nashville and its coolness factor.”

Joshua Livingstone, who started out as a wardrobe stylist for Men’s Warehouse in Green Hills and now consults on style for both men and women through his website, thinks this is the case.

“They have an outdated idea of what Nashville is,” Livingstone says. “Put a Neiman Marcus here and see the profit. We have great style here, and we like to spend money.”

With the recent abundance of H&M TV commercials showing locally, it would appear that the fashion conglomerate known for its stylish apparel and low prices is either mean and teasing or getting ready to set up shop.

But the commercials were simply a part of a large, nationwide campaign that happened, H&M officials say, adding the retailer no designs on Music City.

Is all hope lost for attracting those stores we desperately want? Maybe not.

When Nordstrom opens at the Mall at Green Hills, it will offer inventory considered a cut above mass-market department stores such as Macy’s or Dillard’s.

Trader Joe’s maintained for years it would not put a store in Nashville, even if liquor laws changed that would allow the chain to sell its famous “Two Buck Chuck” wines.

And while Trader Joe’s won’t reveal sales figures for individual locations, says Alison Mochizuki, director of national public relations, the lack of parking on any given day would give the impression that the Nashville location is doing well.

Maybe some of other retailers will take notice.

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