Ikea is one of Sweden’s greatest exports.
When it comes to practical, value for money essentials for the home, Ikea is as reliable as that other Swedish mega brand Volvo.
But for the last decade cash-strapped millennials moving into a first rental, young families kitting out a cheap and cheerful kids’ room or the discerning with an eye for a well-designed classic have had to slog up, or down, the M1 to Leeds or Nottingham to fill that trolley.
It is particularly galling for those heading out of Doncaster towards Leeds who have to pass the massive Ikea warehouse overlooking the motorway not three miles from Doncaster town centre.
Now, it looks like planning for the Sheffield store is entering its final phase. And it can’t come soon enough. Not just for all of us who can’t live without the indispensable Billy bookcase or lunching on the famous meatballs or salmon special but also for the many jobseekers across the region for whom the new store and its 700 posts presents a great opportunity.
If all goes to plan, we should have a Sheffield Ikea on the former Tinsley Wire site near Meadowhall by July 2017.
Having initially looked at sites in other areas of South Yorkshire, Ikea settled on Sheffield as its preferred option and latterly the behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations around the proposed store have centred on concerns about the road network and impact on the M1.
Anyone who visits the Leeds store – or actually virtually any Ikea – will understand the necessity of that as the congestion around the area on a busy Bank Holiday is notorious.
But Sheffield City Council’s initial concerns were around protecting the city centre, which had already lost out in the rise of Meadowhall.
Laudable though that aim was, the reality is that change had already set in and the out-of-town retail shift was already established. A business like Ikea needs space and free parking. A town centre site would not work. Who would want to lug a flatpack kitchen even a few hundred metres to the car?
An out-of-town Ikea is better than an out of region Ikea. And it is giving the customer and taxpayer of South Yorkshire want they want; people want to shop in Ikea and will travel to do so if necessary.
Risking losing a retail giant like Ikea was not the way to protect the city centre.
Of course we want a thriving city centre and buoyant town centres, but it’s horses for courses. The mix will be different – independents, specialists, food and drink and must complement the out of town sites.