Big news happened in my hometown of Memphis, Tenn., when the improbable announcement was made this week that the Swedish-based retailer Ikea will open in the city. I’m not much of a shopper, but as I sit at my Ikea desk next to my Ikea bookshelf with an Ikea lamp lighting my home office, I’m very familiar with making shopping road trips to Ikea.
Shopping road trips are pretty common in my family, particularly when they center on Ikea. We’ve made at least five trips to Atlanta to shop at Ikea and a couple more to Dallas and even one to Cincinnati. Living in Memphis where the closest Ikea is in Atlanta, almost a six-hour drive, it’s a special thing to make it to Ikea.
But now, the unbelievable news is that the megastore is opening in Memphis. I learned years ago as a real estate reporter that Memphis is at best a B-level retail town. All the A-listers like Neiman Marcus, Design Within Reach, Container Store, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and Crate and Barrel aren’t coming to Memphis; our demographics don’t support those outlets. In addition to Ikea, Memphis will soon have a massive Bass Pro Shops open in Downtown in the former arena, The Pyramid. And plans are in the works for a massive outlet mall in the southern suburbs. So it’s looking like Memphis soon will be a major shopping road trip destination.
Do you ever make shopping road trips? Is it worth it to you to pile into the car and drive three, four, eight or even 10 hours for a special shopping excursion, whether it’s Ikea, an outlet mall or some random flea market?
I’ve traveled for everything from baseball to basketball to music festivals and weddings. So what’s wrong with a little shopping trip, especially to a destination store that features all the greatness of Ikea?
Think back to your most recent travels and consider how much time you spent shopping. Maybe you didn’t even spend money. But chances are you spent at least some time in a local boutique, antiques store, thrift shop or outlet mall. We don’t travel anywhere without a little shopping.
In the days since the Ikea store was announced I’ve seen a number of people discuss on social media their support for local businesses instead of Ikea. I get the sentiment; we are avid supporters of local small businesses, as well.
But let me go into something I learned when I was a new college graduate living in Dallas and working in the restaurant industry. Beltline Road, particularly in the northern suburbs, is restaurant central. I often wondered how restaurant after restaurant could be so successful when that’s all that was on the street. Too much competition, I thought.
But those restaurants are working together. They serve as a food destination. No, I might not choose your restaurant tonight. But as I go to the one down the street, I’ll pass yours and keep it in mind for next week. You know, all boats rise with the tide.
I believe the same can be true for a retail giant like Ikea. People travel for hundreds of miles to spend the day at Ikea. Yes, some of them will return home the same night. But many more will stay a night or two in local hotels, eat at local restaurants and shop at local businesses.
And when they make a return trip in a year or two, they will remember that little shopping neighborhood in a different part of town that will become part of their future travel experience to your city.
I’m not a fan of shopping. But I do see the value in everyone in the family being happy when we travel. And for my wife, that includes shopping. So I’ll continue finding fun shopping road trips, they just won’t have to include Ikea in a couple of years because we’ll have one at home.