Around 13,000 shoppers from across Ireland visited IKEA's new Belfast store at Holywood Exchange on its opening day of business.
Despite many people predicting traffic chaos on the opening morning, visitor numbers were steady throughout the day, with store manager Paul Reid saying he was “delighted” at how the day had gone.
“There was much interest and a terrific atmosphere throughout the day,” Paul said. “Feedback has so far been extremely positive and our customers have been really impressed by our range of products, low prices and child-friendly facilities.”
Assistant store manager Stephen Gibson said the first few days of the store opening had been a “pleasurable experience” for both staff and customers alike.
“I'm just personally pleased with how things have gone these first few days,” Stephen told The CT. “I think the Irish customer, North and South, have longed for this day. I am also pleased that the traffic gridlock, which many people had predicted, did not happen.
“To get 15,000 people, which we had personally predicted during our opening, is fantastic.”
Stephen said customers from across Ireland had already visited the store with around 10 percent of the customer base coming from the Republic. One couple from west Cork took a seven hour journey, leaving their home on the opening Saturday at 1am, reaching the store at 8.30am.
Some eager shoppers also camped overnight but opening day organisers put on a host of entertainment for the crowds including stilt walkers, jugglers and face painters.
As well as selling a wide range of furniture goods at relatively low prices, the 29,000 sq metre store — the equivalent size of over five football fields — also houses Ireland's largest restaurant with 565 seats.
Other statistics include 50 showrooms, a market hall, a warehouse, a range of almost 10,000 items, a creche, 400 staff and 1,500 car parking spaces.