The final nail in the coffin for IKEA’s landmark Coventry store has been struck.
Hopes of a brief reprieve were dashed today (Friday, May 22) when the Swedish furniture giant announced the mothballed city centre branch will not reopen.
The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) said it was “supporting workers through a difficult time” and confirmed the site will close for good in eight weeks’ time.
The branch has been shut temporarily in response to the Covid-19 pandemic but was already seeing out its time ahead of permanent closure in summer 2020.
The flat-pack furniture chain has now dashed hopes of final hurrah – in the latest blow to 352 workers in the city. The branch was not included among a list of stores across England and Northern Ireland that will begin to reopen from June 1 and the retailer said it will remain closed.
Responding to the news, Usdaw said it was supporting members who have been made redundant and the site is being closed on July 17.
Area organiser Andrew Sadler said: “Having been through extensive consultation meetings with IKEA, we are of course disappointed not to have persuaded the company to keep the Coventry store open. The company informed us that the store is loss making and the site does not lend itself to downsizing or reconfiguration.
“Where possible we have secured transfers for staff and we negotiated an enhanced severance package for those who are being made redundant, including extended paid notice.
“Usdaw is providing our members with the support they require at this difficult time, helping them find alternative employment.”
Coventry’s Ikea store first opened its doors to the public in December 2007.
Up to 300 shoppers braved the cold and were queueing by the time of the opening at 10am – the first of an estimated 15,000 Sunday turnout. The then Lord Mayor of Coventry Cllr Dave Batten worked up a sweat sawing through a log to officially opened the store in a traditional Swedish ceremony.
The store, in Croft Road, is spread over seven floors and was the world’s first city centre Ikea.
Customers browsing around on its first day of opening were entertained by jugglers, face painters and balloon modellers as well as three-piece band Weapons of Sound.
Reaction from Zarah Sultana MP
Zarah Sultana, Labour MP for Coventry South, called on the Government to prevent workers in the city from falling into poverty amid the fallout from the IKEA closure and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Sultana said: “It’s very sad to hear Coventry’s Ikea store will not be reopening. My thoughts are with the store’s workers and their families, for whom this will be an incredibly challenging time.
“When IKEA first announced their decision to close the store, I secured a debate in Parliament where I called on the Government to help protect the workers from unemployment and invest in the city to reverse decades of de-industrialisation.
“The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has made this call even more urgent, with our manufacturing industries being hit hard.
“The Government must now do more to protect jobs, urgently introduce income support measures to prevent people falling into poverty, and plan for the future with a green industrial strategy to invest in the sustainable jobs that we will need to build back better from this pandemic.”
In March, police officers and a security guard closed the branch as the chain took steps to safeguard the health and hygiene of staff and customers.
The permanent departure of the brand had been announced in February 2020, when the company said the seven storey city centre site was not suitable for its business.
Marsha Smith, Area Manager Ikea UK and Ireland said: “The decision not to reopen our Coventry store to customers and to close it permanently in the summer, has not been an easy one.
“It has been an honour to be part of this community and we would like to thank our co-workers for their enormous contribution, and our loyal customers for their support, over the last 12 years.”
IKEA’s Coventry store, one of 22 branches in the UK, was built in 2007 in the city centre and was one of the retailer’s earliest examples of testing a new format to meet its customer’s changing needs and expectations.
Workers will shortly return to work in the store, in a safe manner, as preparations take place for a permanent closure.