Nap areas, meatball mounds and a 'tornado' vending machine - behind the scenes at Ikea

We take a tour of the Swedish furniture giant’s lucrative Dublin store’s little-seen areas.

By Killian Woods Reporter, Fora

IT’S NEARLY A decade since Ikea threw the doors open to its first Irish store, which has grown to become one of the Swedish chain’s most lucrative sites.

The Ballymun store ranks among the flat-pack furniture giant’s top-10 performing outlets worldwide for sales, raking in more than €166 million last year.

Roughly four million people walked through the doors last year, most likely following the designated route through the store’s showrooms and warehouse.

However, Fora this week took a look behind the scenes at the Swedish furniture giant’s Dublin outlet at some of the store’s little-known areas, many of which run on a 24-hour basis.

Ikea Dublin deputy logistics manager Scott Fairbairn said the store takes in over 3,000 deliveries each year and processes 260,000 pallets of goods.

His team of 130 people, working round the clock, manage the deliveries with a fleet of 35 forklifts.

“To give you an idea of the volume we shift, the sandwich bags made from sugar cane, we shift over 200,000 packs of these every year. And the ‘kallax’ storage units, one of the most popular products, we shift 3,000 pallets of those per year,” Fairbairn said.

As the store approaches its 10am opening time and the logistics team winds down, the restaurant is gearing up for the day.

On an average day in the restaurant, it would serve about 1,500 customers, while at the weekend that figure would swell to 2,000 people.

“In the main meals, our most popular dish by far is the meatballs, we’re really famous for our Swedish meatballs. And then when it comes to desserts, everyone loves our Daim cake,” David Cox, who helps lead the Ikea food team, said.

Unloved furniture

The ‘bargain corner’ is an often-overlooked part of the store, where returned items are given a second run on the shop floor. The section is staffed by a handful of workers, whose job is to give the damaged or incomplete goods an overhaul.

Sam Babarinde, recovery team leader at Ikea Dublin, said the store receives trolleys of returned goods each day, and his job is to get it back on the shelves.

“We received all stock that has been damaged due to packaging or customer returns that are considered damaged through the customer service area. We process it here, check for other damages to see if it is defective in any way.”

If a part is missing, the recovery team has an arsenal of 2,000 different spare parts housed in a vending machine called the ‘tornado’.

“If you think about one chest of drawers, that will have more than a 100 parts in it and it could come in different colours as well,” Babarinde said.

Away from the shop floor, Ikea’s open-plan office houses its local designers and ‘comm-in’ team who are responsible for store layout and presentation. 

Since many staff work through the night, the staff-only zone is kitted out with many areas to relax, according to Ikea internal communications specialist Helen Kelly.

“We have some seats that are quite nice in an area with low lighting. It’s real cosy with cushions and throws, so you can have a nap or sit and rest.

“We have our TV area in here, so if you want we have Sky Sports, all the film channels. So you can sit and relax and really enjoy your break.”

Sign up to our newsletter to receive a regular digest of Fora’s top articles delivered to your inbox.