Once more unto the breach: Ikea and Decathlon reopen, hoping this is for good

Adjacent megastores see large queues before a ‘soft opening’ on Monday morning

Pre-Covid-19 Ikea could accommodate the size of a mid-size Irish town. File Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Pre-Covid-19 Ikea could accommodate the size of a mid-size Irish town. File Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Officially, Ikea in Ballymun was supposed to open at 10am.

But there were 40 people waiting outside the Dublin store at 8am so the managers opened the doors early much to the relief of those outside.

Long queues outside Ikea were a feature after the first lockdown ended last year. This time, store management decided there was no point in having people queue just for the sake of it.

“We couldn’t wait to let everybody back in. It’s been a great surprise for our customers,” said Ikea Ireland market manager Martyn Allan.

Among those waiting was Shona Baggett, who came for countertops for a new cheese and wine bar, Once upon a Chopping Board, which is opening in Ratoath, Co Meath. The opening of her restaurant was postponed because of Covid-19.

“We are an established company, but we don’t have a bar. We are so excited. This is the next step. Please God we get to open outdoors on June 7th if not for takeaway before then,” she said. She left with the countertops, but also with shelving and assorted paraphernalia, as you do when you go to Ikea.

Martina Hastings came for the picture frames and emerged with the picture frames, lampshades, napkins and bin liners.

“You kind of know what you need when [you] are staring at the four walls every day,” she said.

Sarah Adams bought planting for her garden.

“I have been ringing and ringing. I only live five minutes away,” she said. Last year, she was laid off from a job in Debenhams.

“I have been off for a full year. I am back to work tomorrow. I can’t wait”.

There is a green light system in operation in the store.

Pre-Covid-19, Ikea in Ballymun could accommodate 6,000 people, the population of a mid-size Irish town. Now it is limited to 1,000 at a time. There are “social distance wardens” in the store keeping people apart, hand sanitisers and removable mattress covers.

Mr Allan said there are supply issues, but they are not to do with Brexit. Instead they are to do with the pandemic, but he anticipates any supply issues will be temporary.

Across the way from Ikea is the sports giant retailer Decathlon. It opened 11 months ago and was one of the top 10 busiest Decathlon stores in Europe when it shut at the start of the last lockdown. Some 56 new employees, or team-mates as they are called, were taken on on Monday.

It had 3,000 people in by appointment on Saturday. Like Ikea, it too had a “soft opening” on Monday, two hours earlier than planned due to queues outside. At 10am on Monday it was already reaching its Covid-19 capacity of 250 people in store.

Unlike most retail, Decathlon had a stellar lockdown as people scrambled to find something to do with everything closed.

Its bestselling product online was a surfing poncho which, at €25, is a cut price version of the dryrobes which have been popular with the resurgence in sea swimming during the pandemic.

Covid-19 has also seen a boon in its range of camping equipment with another summer in prospect of holidaying in Ireland.

Decathlon Ireland manager Bastien Grandgeorge said he believed instore retail is here to stay despite those naysayers who suggest otherwise.

“We cannot replace the human experience of shopping. There is nothing like that interaction,” he said.