IKEA said it will shortly begin talks with the Irish government and eight other countries about returning the financial support they received to support workers during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Ingka Group, the owner of most IKEA stores, said it had already repaid aid received from the Serbian government to cover wages for furloughed staff during the lockdown, and was about to do the same in Romania.
The company told the Irish Examiner they are in talks about returning money to all nine countries that gave them government support through furlough schemes as they have suffered less than expected from the crisis.
There were large queues of customers waiting to enter the IKEA store in Dublin when it reopened last week. Other retail sectors including hardware have reported significant pent-up demand from customers following the lifting of the lockdown.
Ingka Group, the largest strategic partner in the IKEA franchise system has begun conversations with Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain and the US. Nearly 166,000 workers are employed by Ingka Group. ?
"Our main focus here is simply to return the generous support that was made available by governments to businesses during this difficult time," Ingka Group's head of retail Tolga Oncu said in an email.
"Whilst no one knows how things will continue to develop, we now have a better understanding of the impact of the crisis on our business and have therefore decided to pay it back as it is the right thing to do."
Romanian Finance Minister Florin Citu thanked the company on Facebook for not using the 858,504 lei (€177,500) necessary to cover technical unemployment between March 17 and June 12.
"IKEA representatives said that although we are facing many challenges ahead, in their opinion the company’s results will be better than they were expecting a few months ago. Therefore, IKEA made the decision not to use the state budget funds," Citu said.
British business supplies distributor Bunzl on Monday said it too planned to repay government support and bring forward deferred tax payments, following better-than-expected sales during the crisis.
IKEA stores are gradually reopening worldwide after most closed temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.