Swedish home furnishing giant Ikea posted annual sales of over €150m in the Republic, prompting fresh speculation that it may look to Cork to open a new store.
Cork has made a strong pitch to Ikea in recent months as a viable destination for a new store, with business, political and local government figures actively involved in selling the region to the multinational.
The sales of €152.5m for the financial year to the end of August means that Ikea is the largest home furnishings retailer here. Moreover, the Republic is the fastest growing market for Ikea.
Bedroom furniture saw the biggest growth with a jump in sales of 17%. Its Hemnes day bed was the biggest selling product, with sales boosted by a significant price drop of almost €50 in the past year to €299.
It dropped prices on 227 products, boosting sales across the various ranges.
There was also significant job growth in Ireland, with 110 jobs boosting staff numbers to 663.
In September, it opened an order-and-collection point in Carrickmines, adding to its store in Ballymun, which opened in 2009.
Before that, it opened a store in east Belfast, where its sales are consolidated in the retailer’s UK accounts
A spokeswoman for Ikea said the company was “actively looking for opportunities to open” new stores, but stopped short of saying Cork was on the immediate agenda.
She added: “There is nothing firm planned at the moment.”
Local business groups across the county have stated the case for their various towns, with Mitchelstown, Charleville, Mallow, Fermoy, Ballincollig, Carrigtwohill, and Little Island all mentioned as possible locations.
Ikea held talks with Cork County Council at least twice, including meeting chief executive Tim Lucey.
Consumers on social media have long championed Cork as a store location, while local business owners have been more reticent, worrying about the implications on their businesses. There have been fears that the allure of an Ikea store could be detrimental to smaller stores and footfall in Cork city centre.
The Ikea Group, which has 315 stores in 27 countries, also posted strong numbers worldwide, with 783m visits to its shops during the year.
Total revenue for the Ikea group in its fiscal 2016 year topped €35.1bn, up 7.4% from the previous year.
China remains one of the fastest growing markets for Ikea, while the five largest retail markets based on sales value were Germany, the US, France, the UK, and Sweden.
The retailer is also about to launch in Serbia and India.
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