IKEA Tebrau opens today!

Today, Nov 16, I discovered that I-K-E-A are the initials of its founder’s name, his family’s farm and the village where he grew up in Sweden – Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.

My media pass to the event at IKEA Tebrau
On Nov 16 at exactly 10am, IKEA’s first store in Southern Malaysia that covers 46,713 square meters of floor space, welcomed shoppers into IKEA Tebrau, its biggest store in Southeast Asia.

In the past few months, I passed the site and saw the building gradually taking shape, heard rumours that this brand was soon opening here and recently, I finally saw for myself, that iconic logo which confirmed all the hearsay.

And for fans of IKEA, this became a serious countdown to its opening date.

All who have been enjoying the shopping experience at its outlets in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere, can now look forward to shopping at an outlet literally in our own backyard!

With all the hype spreading on social media, fans and shoppers in Johor Baru were buzzing with eager anticipation, just waiting for its doors to be opened on Nov 16.

Closer to its opening date, IKEA Tebrau sent out teams of their co-workers riding on bicycles and walking about wearing backpack billboards to inform and invite shoppers into their store.

Shoppers corralled in the covered carpark, waiting for 10am
Some fans, eager to catch the proverbial fattest worm along with chances to win prizes, started to queue up at the store from 11.30pm the night before so as to be among the first people to step into the store when it opened at 10am the next morning!

Meanwhile I had the privilege of a media invitation for Nov 16 with specific instructions on where to park and what time to get in to join the IKEA team and other guests for a Swedish breakfast before the official opening formalities started.

Waking up at the crack of dawn for this event was surreal but driving into the carpark and finding it looking like an exact replica of its other stores, was a comfortable and familiar feeling.

I saw young men wearing IKEA blue waistcoats embroidered with white flowers against white shirts and young ladies wearing IKEA blue Swedish peasant dresses with long skirts and matching flower garland headbands.

My serving of Swedish breakfast at the IKEA restaurant
They checked my invitation [on my phone!] and guided me to the second level where I was welcomed into the restaurant which was already a hive of activity.

Guests were eating their Swedish breakfasts and when I approached the serving staff, I was told to sit down and they will serve it to me.

As the tray was served, I glanced at the bowl of cereal and yogurt, a slice of bread and crackers with cheese slices and smiled when my eyes fell upon the Swedish meatballs topped with cranberry sauce, a signature item at the IKEA restaurant.

A sliced hardboiled egg and a slice of smoked salmon on a tiny bed of potato salad were served on a separate saucer.

Needless to say, I started my breakfast by eating the portion of meatballs first!

VIPs ready to saw the log in the official opening ceremony
The event Master of Ceremony was giving a series of announcements to brief us on the event programme and its timings, and he kindly assured me that I had plenty of time to enjoy my breakfast before the speeches started.

He reminded us that after the speeches, the entire event would move to the Ground level for the official opening ceremony.

In his speech, IKEA Southeast Asia managing director, Christian Rojkjaer, expressed his appreciation to the team of over 300 local co-workers and was grateful for their Johor boleh! attitude.

He said that their IKEA store, a one-stop family shopping destination, was like a living organism where there was always something to do here.

IKEA Tebrau is now official declared open!
Among other things, IKEA Southeast Asia retail director, Mike King, said that IKEA Tebrau aims to inspire people to turn their houses into homes.

IKEA Tebrau store manager, Annie Chandler, was excited with the solutions that they can provide.

She commended the planning team for doing an amazing job in preparing the store for its opening and said what they had done was the most inspiring arrangements she had ever seen.

In her 14 months in Malaysia, Annie who’s Australian, was impressed with the 300 local co-workers and their positive can-do attitude.

When the deputy store manager, Charles Sathis Nair, was introduced, I felt a ridiculous sense of pride because Charles is also a Johorean!

IKEA bikers and billboard bearers at the event
Then Charles commented that it was “a momentous day today” and it resonated within me because this was the exact word I used to describe my year this year!

Keeping a close watch on the time, the MC then invited the media to first move to the event area downstairs, followed by others who should take their places for the official opening gimmick.

Instead of cutting a ribbon, IKEA has a tradition in sawing a log in two, symbolic of a new beginning and the stage in the event area, was set up for this.

It was like a photography frenzy as cameras of various kinds clicked or videoed the moments as they watched the VIPs sawing the log with all their might on the stage and (flashed) on the LED screen.

The SIGS Marching Band with colour guard on stage
It took a while but with some cheering encouragement, they finally sawed the log in two!

Then a short video was screened to showcase how the IKEA co-workers on bicycles and walking billboards reached out to the community in and around Johor Baru.

Once the video ended, the stars of the video – the bikers and walking billboards – rode/walked into the event area amid claps and cheers.

When the special performance was announced, I felt another surge of pride as the girls from the Sultan Ibrahim Girls School (SIGS) Marching Band struck up the chords and marched smartly onto the stage, complete with members of the colour guard bearing IKEA flags!

Welcoming shoppers into the store after 10am
The MC got it right when he called the band, “the pride of Johor Baru” because last year, I had the privilege of meeting them and doing a feature on this award-winning all-girls band.

Then it was time for an advance 30-minute peek into the store before the ‘floodgates’ were opened.

Walking in behind the VIPs, I was among the first to step into IKEA Tebrau to experience the exciting displays in the 54 room sets and admire over 8,000 types of products in the store.

As I browsed around, I grooved to the upbeat music played on the store’s sound system just soaking in the IKEA feel – if there’s such a thing – still not quite believing that all this was happening in JB!

More shoppers welcomed into the store after 10am
At about 10 minutes before 10am, the music paused and a voice made an announcement, addressing the store’s co-workers, advising them to be at their respective stations as the store would be opening in about five minutes.

Little did I know that a mighty crowd of thousands of shoppers were queuing up outside while another group was safely corralled behind bars in the covered carpark, just waiting for the doors to open at 10am sharp.

“Where did these people come from?” I wondered. “Didn’t they have to go to work?” I asked myself.

Shoppers entering IKEA Tebrau today
Then I recalled my friend Edey telling me that in his wife’s office, two of her colleagues took the day off just to go to IKEA Tebrau!

I imagined many employers being shorthanded today as they discover staff being absent from work, simply because IKEA Tebrau was opening its doors.

Operating hours at IKEA Tebrau are: Sunday to Thursday from 10am to 10pm, Friday and Saturday, public holidays, eve of public holidays and replacement holidays that fall on Mondays, from 10am to 11pm.

For more info on Opening promotions/activities and limited edition deals, visit website: IKEA.my/Tebrau.