Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday took part in the opening ceremony of IKEA’s first Serbia store, saying that the arrival of the Swedish giant “makes him proud.”
The president told reporters that “talks are already underway” with the company’s management about achieving “a much higher volume of manufacturing for the global market in Serbia.”
According to Vucic, “it’s up to us” whether this happens.
Asked whether Serbia’s domestic furniture industry will suffer losses because of IKEA’s arrival to the market, Vucic said that “the experience of all regional countries shows that both spending and manufacturing will increase.”
The president announced that IKEA plans to open another store in Belgrade, adding that he “believes it won’t be long” before one is opened in Nis, southern Serbia, as well.
Asked if he bought anything, Vucic said that he did not – “because the checkouts were closed.”
“The law is respected here, the checkouts open at 10 o’clock,” he said.
Speaking on Wednesday, a day before the opening ceremony, Vucic said that the number of domestic companies that will become IKEA’s suppliers would increase “soon.”
“I’m still not free to reveal anything, but I expect there will be more, and better in a short period of time. In six months’ time we can talk and you will see that citizens of Serbia can produce much more for IKEA at the global level than has been the case until today,” he said.
In an interview for Beta earlier in the week, Jesa Ercic, secretary of the Association for Forestry, Wood Processing and Furniture Industry of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, said that IKEA’s arrival will force the domestic furniture industry to “increase its competitiveness in order to alleviate an unavoidable drop in sales.”
Experiences from regional countries show that this drop can range anywhere from 25 to 45 percent, depending on a market’s “culture and habits.”
Over EUR 70 million has been invested in the IKEA store in Belgrade, that will provide jobs to 400 workers, Beta reported earlier in the week.
IKEA CEO for South East Europe Stefan Vanoverbeke said that Serbia would be the 49th country in which the Swedish company, which employed nearly 180,000 people, would do business.
“Last year we had 783 million visits to our stores around the world and over 2.5 billion visits to the company’s website. We hope that the citizens of Serbia will become our loyal customers, too,” Vanoverbeke said.
Director of the IKEA store in Serbia Vladimir Voga said that 9,500 products would be offered in the company’s 35,000 square meter store, the same as in its other stores around the world.
“Buyers will have over 1,400 parking spots, a restaurant for 500 people, play areas for children, a store selling Swedish food, as well as a spot to recharge electric cars,” he said.