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5Qs for Cindy Andersen on Ingka Centres’ U.S. plans

Al Urbanski
Cindy Andersen
Cindy Andersen
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Here are two ways to remember that Ingka Centres, a major owner-operator of mega-malls in Europe, Russia, and China, is part of Ikea. First, the simple way: They both start with an “i” and end with an “a.” Next, the literal way: The company’s name is actually a conjunction of the initial letters of Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA. Three years ago, Ingka unveiled an $8.6 billion project to extend its portfolio internationally. Part of the plan includes creating urban centers anchored by small-format Ikeas. Sites in San Francisco and Toronto have already been acquired, and we approached Sweden-based Cindy Andersen, the company’s new managing director to learn if events of the past year had delayed any of its efforts in the Western Hemisphere.

Cindy, Ingka is an international operator. Did you experience widely different effects from region to region?
Yes, you are right. Things varied depending on the place and time. There were two waves. Things were worse in Russia and China during the first wave of COVID-19. Europe was affected more negatively during the second wave, while Russia and China were a bit more stable.

The first North American sites for your urban centers are San Francisco and Toronto. Still planning to open in major markets here first?
Yes, our strategy remains the same. I would very much say that the bigger cities will stay on the top of our lists. We are very much committed to the United States and North America and are looking for great opportunities where we can create Ikea destinations.

"We are very much committed to the United States and North America and are looking for great opportunities where we can create Ikea destinations."

Your properties in Russia and China are mostly mega-malls with large Ikea footprints. In both San Francisco and Toronto, however, you’ve purchased smaller, existing spaces. So what’s your format going to be like here.
We’ve changed our concept here to what we call a meeting place. We want to have mixed-use elements and offer lots of experiences. What we aim to create in urban environments are super-exciting and compelling meeting places.

So these won’t be all-retail? They will be smaller urban experiences?
I would say that our mission is to create magic for the neighborhoods where we locate.

Some of the tenants besides Ikea?
We can’t name particular tenants yet, but we will definitely be seeking to create great food and beverage and entertainment experiences. We are developing completely new plans for the buildings we have now. They haven’t been finalized yet, but what we are looking to do is create incredibly exciting new meeting places.

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