By Barbara Thau
CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa.–Swedish home furnishings giant Ikea opened its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Danville, Va.. this spring to support accelerated growth here and expedite merchandise shipments so that shoppers can get their orders that much quicker.
The 930,000-square-foot facility, which produces wood furniture, could be the first of several U.S. factories to come.
The facility signals Ikea’s investment in the U.S. market, “which is the second-largest market next to Europe,” Mona Liss, an Ikea spokeswoman, told HFN.
The retailer currently operates 35 stores in the United States, versus 15 just five years ago. And the plan was for Ikea to maintain that aggressive growth pace in the United States through 2010 until the retail market showed signs of slowing down, Liss said.
For now, the Danville factory will serve the stores opened in the United States in the past five years.
“Having these products accessible to us [in the U.S. factory] allows us to ship faster and bring more products to our stores faster,” Liss said.
The factory produces a number of Ikea’s highest-volume products, such as its Expedit bookshelves, Lack coffee tables and Besta entertainment systems.
“This is just the beginning,” said Joseph Roth, a company spokesman. The Danville site sits on 209 acres, so “there’s the capacity to build three more versions of what we’ve opened.”
The Danville furniture facility is conveniently located about 45 minutes from Greensboro, N.C, “close to the heart of America’s [furniture manufacturing center] High Point,” he said.
The retailer could also open U.S. factories in other locations.
Some of Ikea’s global suppliers are following suit, “now that there is a critical mass of Ikea stores in the U.S.,” Roth said.
These include Polish mattress company Com.40, which set plans in February to open a U.S. factory.
Ikea’s factories operate under the Swedwood banner. Swedwood is an Ikea subsidiary that manufactures wood-based furniture exclusively for the retailer.
Ikea operates 38 factories in 11 countries in Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden the Ukraine, Germany, Hungary and now the United States.
The U.S. factory also reflects a bid toward energy efficiency. “As we’re reducing the transport of all these large home furnishings items from Europe on boat to the U.S., we are reducing our carbon footprint,” Roth said.
The factory has created more than 200 jobs in an area that has suffered jobs lost to factory closures. Dan River Industries, formerly one of the world’s largest textiles mills, shuttered its operations there for good in the spring.