Rivals welcome IKEA's influence

Paul Clinton

Saying they don't fear a siphoning of customers, a string of local

home furnishings stores are welcoming the IKEA at Home Ranch as a

potent drawing card for a new crop of shoppers looking for chairs,

bookcases, tables and other items.

John Garrett, whose H.J. Garrett Furniture has been at its Harbor

Boulevard location since 1963, said he doesn't expect IKEA to take

shoppers from him.

"In reality, it works just the opposite," Garrett said. "It will

bring more business to the area."

Garrett sells upper-end oak dressers, upholstered sofas and other

higher-end furniture. Garrett and others pointed to IKEA's niche in

the home furnishings market -- modern-style furniture at affordable

prices.

Eric Guenther, the director of design at Glabman's Furniture &

Interior Design, said his store specializes in higher-end, handmade

items.

"We're in a very different market," Guenther said. "Good design is

a complement regardless of the price range."

John Gannon, who served as the store manager of a La-Z-Boy

Furniture Galleries across the street from the IKEA at the Tustin

Marketplace, is now manager at the Harbor Boulevard La-Z-Boy store.

Many of his customers in Tustin also shopped IKEA, he said.

The Tustin IKEA store closed Sunday in preparation for the Costa

Mesa store's Wednesday opening.

By building a store at Home Ranch, IKEA is expected to stimulate a

so-called "restaurant row" in Costa Mesa. Situated at the northern

end, IKEA will be at one end of a string of stores running south on

Harbor, including a Wickes Furniture.

Home furnishings stores also dot the South Coast Metro landscape.

In addition to Roche Bobois, South Coast Plaza accounts for 28

retailers in that sector. The plaza's western wing, along Bear

Street, includes Crate & Barrell, Macy's Home Furniture Store and

Pottery Barn.

Debra Gunn Downing, a spokeswoman for the shopping center, agreed

that the IKEA should keep retailers on their toes.

"Competition is good," Gunn Downing said. "It makes all the

players stronger."

When IKEA executives began planning the new store in August 1999,

they looked for a site in a centralized location. Costa Mesa offered

a high-visibility property along the San Diego Freeway with better

access for shoppers, said Joseph Roth, the company's public affairs

director.

Other IKEAs have wound up generating more business for surrounding

shops, Roth said.

"Many other businesses benefit from us being nearby," Roth said.

"Just like gas stations, once you get people focused on home

furnishings, there's a whole untapped purchasing potential there."

* PAUL CLINTON covers the environment, business and politics. He

may be reached at (949) 764-4330 or by e-mail at

paul.clinton@latimes.com.

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