Ikea to Conquer Balkans

Swedish furniture giant Ikea is considering spending billions of Euros on expanding into the Balkan.

Per Kaufman, General Director of Ikea’s Eastern European operations, told News Agency Reuters that Ikea was hoping to open stores in the former Yugoslav republics of Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia.

Three or four shopping centres in Serbia, two in Croatia, and one in Slovenia are currently being considered.  After that, Ikea may move forward in Albania as well, Kaufman told Reuters.

“This is still a region where we have not invested, because of the war and because of whatever else happened. But now we have intensified. We are pretty far along in Zagreb, so we hope that will come through,” he told Reuters.

How quickly Ikea will expand in the Balkans will mainly depend on how quickly the region recovers from the recession, Kaufman said.

“We believe that it should be possible, of course on the condition that the economic expansion continues or rather starts again,” he told Reuters.

Earlier this week, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, said in an interview that weaker consumer demand may force the company to lay off more staff, mainly in logistics and manufacturing.

The Balkan region is anxious to attract foreign investments to quicker recover from the financial crisis.

Ikea furniture is very popular in the Balkans but the nearest store is in Graz, in southern Austria. The Zagreb store may open in 2011 or 2012, Kaufman told Reuters.