Ikea reopens in Denmark after country’s worst retail month this century

Ikea reopens in Denmark after country's worst retail month this century
The queue outside Ikea in Gentofte on Monday. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix
The Swedish furniture giant Ikea reopened its five department stores in Denmark on Monday after six weeks which have seen the biggest drop in Danish retail sales in twenty years.
The reopening brought large queues of customers on Monday, eager to buy furniture and bedding after the long closure. 
 
The country's business minister Simon Kollerup over the weekend warned companies in Denmark to delay any reopening until the government had decided on the next phase of its gradual lifting of restrictions, and then to coordinate with the authorities. 
 
But Ikea said that it saw no obstacle to reopening, as it had only ever closed voluntarily. 
 
“We have not received any specific order from the authorities that we must not open,” Pedersen said. “On the other hand, we have spent a lot of energy over the six weeks being super sharp in implementing all the instructions given by the health authorities.” 
 
 
Denmark's government has instructed shops in the country to ensure that each customer has at least four square metres of space. 
 
Christian Mouroux Pedersen, communications manager for Ikea Denmark, said that by limiting the number of customers at its store in Taastrup outside Copenhagen to 3,500 it was still giving them double the recommended space. 
 
“I can say that we have never, ever had 3,500 customers at the same time in our department store,” he said. “So we have a hard time believing that we're going to blow that ceiling. But of course, we are paying close attention to how many customers are constantly in the various department stores.” 
 
Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix
 
Kollerup said he was disappointed with Ikea for going ahead despite his warning. 
 
“I issued a very clear recommendation from the government on the weekend, I would have expected it to be followed. We view this extremely seriously and will of course be following up on it.” 
 
The reopening came as Arnold Busck, one of Denmark's biggest booksellers, announced that it was filing for bankruptcy.  “We're out of liquidity, to put it simply,” the company said in a press release. “The Covid-19 shutdown has made it impossible to keep the business running.”
 
According to new figures released on Monday by Statistics Denmark, retail sales fell by two percent between February and March 2020, the biggest month-on-month drop in at least 20 years. 
 
“Even during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, retail sales never fell by more than 1.4 percent in a single month,” Tore Stramer, chief economist at the Danish Chamber of Commerce, said.
 
“It is frighteningly clear that the outbreak of viruses and the partial shut down of society has triggered a historic dip in Danes' consumption,” he said. 
 
In a reflection of Danes' changed lives under lockdown, however, sales of computers and their accessories increased by more than 80 per cent over the period. 
 
According to Statistics Denmark, there is a risk that the declining trend in sales will continue.
 

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