Thousands pour into Ikea Winnipeg on opening day

More than 8,000 people have walked through the doors of Winnipeg's Ikea store since it officially opened to great fanfare on Wednesday.

Ikea's grand opening in Winnipeg

10 years ago
Duration 2:05
Ikea opens its Winnipeg location to great fanfare and excitement, with thousands streaming through the store's doors within hours of opening.

More than 8,000 people have walked through the doors of Winnipeg's Ikea store since it officially opened to great fanfare on Wednesday morning.

Ikea officials told CBC News that the new store, located on Kenaston Boulevard and Sterling Lyon Parkway, has attracted 8,200 visitors as of 4:30 p.m. CT.

More than 2,000 people flowed into the Ikea store as the doors opened at 9 a.m. A total of more than 20,000 people are expected to pass through the store on opening day.

Official opening festivities included performances by jugglers and First Nations dancers, as well as speeches by Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz and Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

The parking lot was already packed hours before the doors to the 395,671-square-foot-store opened.

People began lining up in their cars Tuesday night, waiting for the lot to open so they could dash to the front doors and brave frigid temperatures through the night.

By 2 a.m. Wednesday, the line stretched 600 deep while the temperature kept falling, eventually hitting – 21 C.

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Due the to cold, Ikea opened the doors and let the line inside to warm up. But prior to the official opening, they were taken back outside.

The first 1,000 people in line were given numbers to mark their place, along with gift boxes that each included a $75 gift card and an Allen key.

Among those was five golden allen keys that allowed those shoppers to open a lock for a chance to win a $1,000 gift card or a grand prize $5,000 gift card.

Barry Capner, who received the 0001 spot in line, arrived at the store at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"Aw, I feel great about it. It was a long run coming up the parking lot but yeah, I feel great," he said.

"Number one — how good can it get, right?"

It could get as good as it did for Winnipegger Trish Kekropidis, whose golden Allen key won her the $5,000 gift card.

"Five thousand dollars! I'm gonna be shopping!" she screamed.

One shopper came from Mexico City

Mary Gil, who was No. 56 in line, came from Mexico City, bracing against the Winnipeg cold to help her sister out.

Gil's sister lives in Winnipeg and is renovating her home, so she's at Ikea to buy some new furniture.

But Gil, who has been to Ikea in the U.S. and is a fan of the store, said she wanted to experience the excitement of an opening day.

"To be the first in the store and just get to know the products first and just like the excitement and everything. And everyone running and getting the gift box," she said.

While some people shake their heads, wondering what all the fuss is about for a store, many of those in line on Wednesday see Ikea as more than an ordinary store.

For Charlotte Livingston, it's a signal of the city's emergence as an important place on the world retail map.

"We've arrived. We've got something great that the rest of Canada has and we wanted it too, we always wanted it. Now we have it so it's exciting," she said.

"Ikea is to the ladies of Winnipeg what the Jets is to the men of Winnipeg," added Carla Oliphant.

While some Winnipeggers have said they'll wait several weeks, even months, before going to the store in order to avoid the crowds, manager Stephen Bobko suggests people needn't worry about a crush of shoppers.

"This store is so equipped for these volumes of people. It's a 400,000-square-foot store; we've got over 1,600 parking spaces," he said, further noting there are 40 checkout stands to keep the crowds moving.