An IKEA grows in Brooklyn
The IKEA store in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, New York, is a hulking 346,000-square-foot retail space on the Upper New York Bay, with a clear view of the Statue of Liberty and a waterfront walkway on the Atlantic Ocean. Opened on June 18, it’s the retailer’s 35th store in the United States.
Though it is primarily known for home furnishings, IKEA has stepped up its presence in several DIY categories, including appliances, sinks, faucets, flooring and storage in recent years.
IKEA has vastly expanded its housewares section over the past 10 years, adding a wide range of mostly small kitchen items. While IKEA does not sell small appliances, it does sell a proprietary line of kitchen appliances, including ranges, microwaves and ovens, under the Whirlpool and Whirlpool Gold brands. Most recently, the retailer released a convection oven under the Whirlpool Gold name, featured in one small loft-style vignette in the Red Hook store.
In its kitchen planning section, Marty Marston, commercial public relations manager for IKEA North America, noted a preponderance of floating center-island butcher blocks, a kitchen-planning trend popular in Europe. “Especially in France, people take their kitchens with them when they move,” she said. The concept, though relatively popular in New York, is growing more slowly in the rest of the country, where homes typically are built with kitchens in place. But the company still sees room for growth in the area, she said.
Closet storage and organization, and to a lesser extent, garage organization, also have been major growth areas for the retailer, Marston said. The company’s line of closet storage items, under the PAX name, has grown steadily in popularity—the Red Hook store employs specialists in the area, who help customers plan a total closet organization makeover using the PAX software.
The PAX planning studio represents a “point of differentiation” for us, she said. “This has exploded for us,” Marston explained. “Many people have done their kitchen now, and they’re looking to get more organized, to tackle another, more practical project area of the house.” Utilitarian items, such as unvarnished wood storage shelves, have become popular for garage storage projects, she added.
The closet-storage planning system has been emulated by many retailers, particularly the Container Store, which offers a closet organization system under the Elfa brand. Elfa formerly offered its items to other retailers as well, and the system was picked up by Ace Hardware for a time, but the Container Store has since captured Elfa as a proprietary brand.
IKEA also has increased its assortment of flooring items, with a number of offerings under $.99 per square foot. The click-lock floors, in veneer and laminate models, are paired with matching molding for DIYers. At the Red Hook store, laminates, including bamboo and light-colored oak wood veneer, had a prominent presence.
The retailer has also increased its assortment of sinks and faucets, which are house-branded and modern in design.
Randy Neale, kitchen manager at the new IKEA store, pointed out the three newest faucets—Oxskar, an ultra-modern design in chrome-plated brass is also the retailer’s highest-cost model at $279. Other new models are Bagvik, a single-lever kitchen faucet priced at $89, also in chrome; and Elverdam, a higher-end single-lever model, which retails for about $179.
One of the most prominent and popular features in IKEA stores, and particularly in the Red Hook store, are the room vignettes. IKEA breaks down vignettes by either price or square footage, offering solutions for various-sized homes (the New York store features two full home vignettes at under 350 square feet, a necessity in that market). Several rooms, such as a den and a child’s room at under $1,000, were broken down by price.
IKEA has store openings slated for Charlotte, N.C.; Somerville, Mass.; and Tampa, Fla. In all, the retailer currently operates about 280 stores in 36 countries.
Honda lawn mowers recalled
American Honda Motor Corp. is recalling about 20,500 Honda Lawn Mowers, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
Arear shield attached to the lawnmower can break off and be thrown at the operator, posing a laceration risk. The company has received one report of this incident, but no injuries have been reported.
The recall includes HRX walk-behind lawn mowers, and the items were sold from Oct. 27, 2007, through June 2008.
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Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac woes could lead to Fed takeover
Following a slew of funding problems for government-sponsored mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal government is considering taking over the two organizations, according to a report by the New York Times.
The two mortgage companies, which are government-sponsored entities (GSEs), have had difficulty raising funds in the face of the housing market downturn.
According to the report, a plan is under consideration by the Fed to place Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship, which means losses on home loans under their names would be paid by taxpayers. The newspaper cited individuals briefed with the government’s plan, although the sources also said no action is imminent.
Congress created Fannie Mae during the Great Depression and created Freddie Mac in the 1970s. Later, legislators eased some restrictions on the two organizations to help spur growth, allowing them to cash in on the slew of jumbo mortgages that eventually entered the market. Like many other mortgage companies, the two groups were deeply hurt by fallout in the housing market. But unlike other mortgage companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collectively hold huge relative chunk of the outstanding mortgages in the United States.
Shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are expected to slide further today, after plunging throughout the week. If the government were to take over the companies, their stock would be worth “little or nothing,” according to the New York Times.
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