Lorraine Stevens: high-end furniture

Ikea will pay the full cost of deploying three motorbike gardaí for one week as a contribution towards managing the expected traffic chaos around the still-unfinished M50 when the giant Swedish furniture chain opens its doors tomorrow.

A garda spokesman confirmed that, following discussion with the furniture giant and Fingal County Council over the past few weeks, Ikea agreed to pay "some of the costs" towards policing requirements around the opening.

The traffic problem is compounded by the fact that the final U2 concert at Croke Park takes place the same evening and that it is the first day of the College Green bus corridor in the city centre.

Tom Brosnan of the Automobile Association said there could be difficulties on the M50 because of the doubling-up of traffic for both the Ikea opening and the U2 concert.

"I would say you are looking at potential traffic hold-ups there on Monday but I would also say that all the various authorities that you associate with all of these events would be very mindful of this."

Meanwhile, despite promises to maximise the number of jobs in Ikea for Ballymun locals, Ikea confirmed this weekend that of the 500 workers hired, 69 are from the area.

"All reasonable endeavours to employ the people of Ballymun have been undertaken by Ikea," said the spokesman.

Wages at the furniture retailer start at €9.40 an hour, rising to €11.50 after 18 months of training, said the spokesman.

Most medium to high-end furniture retailers contacted by the Sunday Tribune last week believe Ikea's arrival will be a boost for the industry, though those at the lower end of the market were more circumspect.

"Ikea is not a huge threat to us as we sell high-quality furniture to more mature customers who have gone past the point in their lives of buying 'cheap and cheerful'," said Lorraine Stevens of Lomi.

"If we were competing at a lower price, I would be worried" she added. "It is good for Irish people to move away from the 'puffy sofa' look to a more contemporary design," said Stevens.

But Greg Kelly of Des Kelly interiors was a little more wary of the Swedish giant. "We didn't like them coming in on this scale but competition is the spice of life," said Kelly, who added that, with 150 employees across 13 branches, the company has been able to avoid job cuts so far.

Eunan McKenna's business, Lovefurniture.ie, is unique in that it is online and does not have to worry about overheads on top of a dramatic plummet in business. But the internet entrepreneur admitted that it will take a hit from the Swedish giant.

"It won't wipe us out but it will gobble up quite a bit of our business. We are in the low- to mid-market," said McKenna.

"The net effect is that shops will have to go out of business" he warned.

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