An IKEA? Here? Well...

IKEA paramus exterior

The IKEA in Paramus, New Jersey.

When talking about development in the Capital Region -- or just something people want -- it's not uncommon to hear: "Hey, it'd be great to get an IKEA." The topic came up during the (Re)Imagining Troy project, and we've heard elected officials bring it up in the past.

It's easy to understand the desire. IKEA is a huge international brand. It offers modern(ish) furniture and other housewares at cheap prices. The stores employ a lot of people. It'd be a big development piece in a place like North Albany or Menands. And getting an IKEA is a bit of a status symbol.

But: It's not going to happen in the Capital Region. Here's why.

If you look around online, there's a lot of speculation about how IKEA does -- or doesn't -- pick sites for stores. But we figured we'd just go to straight to the source. So we called Joseph Roth, an IKEA spokesman.

The #1 factor -- by far -- that IKEA uses in determining where to site a store, according to Roth: population. Specifically, a population of 2 million or more people within 60-40 miles of the site -- close enough that it'd be about an hour drive.

"That's the first trigger," explained Roth to us this week. "Our stores are so large that we need the population to support them."

OK, let's say that a metro area has the population. What's the next factor?

What else?

IKEA's distribution network, according to Roth. Everything the company does is about huge economies of scale -- it says it has annual sales of $27 billion Euro. (Well, those hex wrenches are tiny -- but think about how many of those IKEA must buy in a year. Yep, again, huge scale.) Roth says the company is always looking at how it can best plug into its existing network of stores and distribution in an effort to find efficiencies.

"In a perfect world, a new store would go into an existing market," he said. Because in that case IKEA already has distribution set up for that area, it has already-trained staff, and it has brand awareness in the media market.

And if you look at the map of IKEA locations around the US and Canada, they do tend to be clustered around each other. A few examples: the greater NYC area has four stores, Montreal has two, the Toronto area 4, Los Angeles 4, and so on.

That's not to say IKEA won't place a store in an empty spot on its map. But it does so with an eye toward future expansion. Roth points to IKEA's choice to set up a store in Atlanta, which at the time of its selection wasn't near any of its other stores. But Atlanta allowed it to build a network for Florida and North Carolina, where it recently opened a store in the Charlotte area.

After population and distribution, Roth said IKEA next looks at whether it can score a good site. It's looking for roughly 20-30 acres that it can buy, with good access and visibility from major roadways. And he says they're willing to be patient. IKEA had been wanting to build a store in the Miami-Dade County area since 2002 -- but it only recently broke ground because it took a decade to find the right location.

IKEA living room display

What not?

Roth says he's heard a lot of speculation of what factors into IKEA's siting decisions and some of them just aren't true. Examples: He says the company doesn't necessarily give preference to university towns or port cities.

What about income levels and education? Roth says those sorts of characteristics are taken into account when doing sales projections for stores, but they don't make or break a location.

Right, so... Albany?

If the biggest factor IKEA uses to site stores is a 2 million population, the Albany area isn't close. Within a 60 mile radius of downtown Albany, there are roughly 1.3 million people.

OK, but what if the circle was a bit wider? It's not unreasonable to think that people from, say, Syracuse would drive to Albany for an IKEA, right? And Roth says the company has been asked about the possibility of an IKEA that could draw on the cities of upstate.

Alas, no. Roth says IKEA just doesn't figure things that way. It's looking for areas of 2 million people or more -- with all of that population in the same media market. Upstate fails the test because its big cities are too far apart from each other, all in separate media markets (again, economies of scale).

But there are always exceptions, right? Well, kind of. Roth says the smallest metro to recently get an IKEA is Austin, Texas. It was just below the 2 million threshold -- but the area is growing quickly (and will probably exceed the mark in the not-too-distant future) and the company found a very attractive site in Round Rock, a suburb to the north of the city. But, again, Albany's not going to make it over the bar that way -- its growth doesn't project to push it over the 2 million mark in even the somewhat-distant future.

So is there anything that could put Albany in the running?

Roth was polite but straight to the point: "I get that question a lot. The answer is: double your population."

More IKEA bits

Number of stores in the US: 38

Stores in progress: 2, in Miami and Kansas City

Typical store size: 325,000-350,000 square feet

Typical site size: 20-30 acres (the store is placed above parking if the site is on the smaller end)

Closest IKEAs

Distances from Albany, calculated by Google Maps.

The two closest IKEAs to the Capital Region are:
+ Paramus, New Jersey: 130 miles
+ New Haven, Connecticut: 151 miles

In 2011, we broke down the choice of which one to travel to.

Other IKEAs that are (relatively) nearby:
+ Brooklyn, New York: 153 miles
+ Elizabeth, New Jersey (near Newark): 154 miles
+ Hicksville, New York (Long Island): 165 miles
+ Stoughton, Massachusetts (near Boston): 179 miles
+ Montreal, Quebec: 225 miles

Comments from Facebook


I'm starting to think that I'm the only person who finds IKEA's products complete rubbish. I detest everything about veneered particle board furniture. For the amount of time and money it is going to take you to put together the IKEA stuff you could have purchased a solidly made piece real wood piece of furniture you could finish (and refinish) yourself and it will last a lifetime.

This kind of news-I-can-actually-use is why AOA is the best.

Boo, hiss. Salzburg, Austria only has ~150,000 people, and very little population outside of that (it's all mountains), and they have one.

Great reporting!

While I agree with the 'laminated particle board' remark, IKEA does stock some useful household items that (like it or not) tend to be of a more disposable nature, and generally their prices on such things are excellent. Outdoor furniture, storage shelving, whites, etc.

Seems to me that halfway between Montreal and NYC is a good spot to be, and there's a sizable chunk of land out by the airport that could put to good use. Coming to Albany from Syracuse or even Rochester is a hell of lot more appealing and efficient than having to go to Toronto or New York. Plus we could finally get our mythical Exit 3. Ooooh, ahhhh.

I have always been curious to see what the Ikea fuss is all about, but I'll keep our smaller population even if we never get to buy particle board furniture puzzles in bright orange.

Alright, people, you heard the man, let's start makin' babies. Only YOU can control the human population. Ikea makes cribs, right?

Look, I can't speak for everyone, but it's not practical for me to double the population of the area, not ONLY because I'm just one man, but also because I don't think I would get buy in from my wife. :)

Even distributed among the AOA readership, I think it would be... prohibitive at best. ;)

IKEA is fine for college graduates, like I was when I basically bought my apartment there. But after a few years, you start to realize that at least some of it is junk that is basically disposable. I like their designs, and would buy furniture from them in future, but only the solidly made stuff. I have a number of pieces (pilbo coffeetable, kramfors sofa, solid wood desktop) I don't intend on parting with for a long, long time.

Can't Gov. Cuomo lure them to the UAlbany campus with one of his tax-free dodges for corporations?

well in that case, stop showing the commercials on local TV stations - every time i see one, i get excited that they must be laying the groundwork for a store. Don't advertise something we can't take advantage of without a 2.5 hour drive.

Love IKEA, everything we have that's IKEA we have NEVER EVER had problem's. I'm glad there not moving to Smallbany NY , not enough motivated people around here to be employed there. Go look at the local Walmart and HD's , Lowes, mediocre workers at best. Want the big hourly wage and do NOT want to work for it.

Ikea wouldn't even make my top 3 list for this area... Wegmans and Costco make it though.

@Michael Bailey, I like IKEA's products, too, but I would hesitate to use the word "motivated" to describe the workers there, at least in the Paramus store. If you can find one at all, they have no interest in helping you or doing anything quickly. The customer service desk is similar to the DMV but even worse. You take your number and sit on the bench and wait, and wait, and wait... And the home delivery? We stood in the line for that for 1 hour with only 4 customers in front of us. They had one guy working the desk on a Saturday and he was in no hurry. I was truly amazed when the right items actually got delivered after seeing the chaos there. But for cheap (and sometimes not so cheap) furniture and housewares, especially for young adults just starting out on their own, it's worth the hassle.

I swore years ago to never again buy a piece of particle board furniture, and to never support anything that made my hometown more like Northern New Jersey. I was now always able to keep the first oath for economic reasons, but I'm still hard and fast on the second one.

Not a fan of IKEA also. Read a book about how they get a lot of their lumber for shady dealers in Russia. Wish I could find the book to give the name, but it's gone missing.
I would vote for a Stew Leonards followed by Wegmans for choices of stores to get around here. There is a Costco in West Springfield, MA. Not a bad drive, I do it quite a bit in the winter months for hockey. You just have to make sure there isn't bad weather.

Michael, since when did Walmart and Home Depot pay a "big" hourly wage? IKEA provides health insurance, which would surely motivate many of the best retail workers in the area to apply.

No IKEA or Wegmans, but there's still hope for Nordstrom maybe... (supposedly the new Latham Circle Mall is getting Dicks, which is moving from Latham Farms?) Costco would be nice in Latham Circle Mall as well, or maybe west of Latham Farms along 7...

Are you sure there is less than 2 million people in the area?
Just look at the traffic from Clifton Park in the morning!

This is actually good news. Furniture should be made of wood, not covered in shiny wood-like plasticy film, and named something with lots of umlauts.

And all of these things about Ikea are true:

To all the people saying "I've never been to Ikea, but this is what I don't like" or "I read something once that was bad". Why bother commenting on something you know nothing about. Ikea is well made, well priced, and you get to collect every size of allen key imaginable.

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