Viewpoint: IKEA opening is a chance for downtown S.F. to reset

Aug 28, 2023

Ikea San Francisco, located at 945 Market St., hosted its grand opening ribbon-cutting on Aug. 23. It features 27 furnished showrooms, two food-and-beverage stops, and about half the inventory of a typical IKEA store.
This article was published in the San Francisco Business Journal.
By Hans Hansson

On a sunny day on August 23rd, the city of San Francisco was buzzing with anticipation for the much-awaited opening of the downtown IKEA store at 945 Market Street. Residents eagerly lined up outside the iconic blue and yellow building, excited to explore the vast array of stylish furniture and home decor. The opening of this new store comes with a lot of upsides to San Francisco’s downtown.

One of the key benefits of the IKEA store will be the boost it will provide to the local economy. The opening will create hundreds of job opportunities for San Francisco residents, offering a chance for employment and financial stability. Additionally, the store’s presence will attract a surge of shoppers from near and far, generating increased foot traffic and benefiting neighboring businesses. The influx of visitors will bring a vibrant energy to the area, turning it into a bustling hub of commerce that will help fill the numerous vacant retail stores that exist around it. Hopefully, it should also lead to a new retail interest in the Westfield Mall that was recently turned back to its lender.

There are also advantages to the community. IKEA’s affordable and well-designed furniture will provide options for individuals on a budget, enabling them to create comfortable and stylish living spaces. The store’s layout and showroom concept also will inspire creativity and spark ideas for home improvement projects. Many residents will find joy in browsing through the meticulously arranged displays, finding inspiration for their own homes. Moreover, the IKEA store just might become a new gathering place for socializing. Its spacious cafeteria will offer a space for people to meet up over a cup of coffee and Swedish meatballs, fostering a sense of camaraderie. The store will also host various events and workshops, further engaging with the local community and offering opportunities for learning and skill development. IKEA is even launching its own co-working facility, designed using IKEA furniture.

While there are concerns around traffic congestion as shoppers flock to the store, and possible environmental impacts as it relates to disposable furniture, I believe the benefits will outweigh any negatives. And the company is already working with the city to address traffic concerns, while making corporate changes to become climate positive. Additionally, the San Francisco location offers customers IKEA “Buy Back & resell” services, enabling shoppers to retire some of their older IKEA furniture, in exchange for store credit.

The ultimate key to IKEA’s success in the city will be San Francisco’s response to the store’s security needs — both inside and outside the store. Unless IKEA customers feel safe, they will end up shopping at nearby locations in Emeryville or Palo Alto. This is San Francisco’s chance to get it right in terms of security and keeping Market Street clean. This truly can be the start to a rebirth of not only Market Street, but Union Square retail.

Hans Hansson, a San Francisco resident, is principal and founding partner of Starboard TCN Worldwide Commercial Real Estate and a frequent contributor to the Business Times.