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The following is a story from our winter issue of Memphis Crossroads digital magazine. Click here to view the full issue.

Plans for the world’s largest furniture maker to build a $64.3 million store in Memphis is just about the best news anyone in the Bluff City could hear. Except that IKEA isn’t the only big fish to come to this pond. It’s almost as if suddenly the Memphis area is a magnet for retail. Bass Pro, another destination retailer like IKEA, will finish its long awaited refurbishing of the Pyramid this spring, and Swedish “fast fashion” retailer H&M announced recently the opening of a store at The Shops at Carriage Crossing. 

And while destination retailers are a big win for the Memphis vicinity, they aren’t isolated incidents. Think expansions at Graceland, retail planned at a redeveloped Mid-South Fairgrounds and reabsorption of retail space that emptied along the Winchester corridor during the recession. 

 “We’re seeing new retail cropping up in a lot of different places,” said Mark Herbison, Senior Vice President of Economic Development at the Greater Memphis Chamber. “2015 is going to be a turn-around year … a real transformative year for the city of Memphis.”

Things seem to be coming together in a short span of time. Herbison attributes the timing in part to the tide of the economy.

“We haven’t seen this good of an economy in a long time, in seven or eight years,” Herbison said. “There’s a lot of pent up demand.” 

But there’s also the preparation that business and government leaders have been making to better Memphis and to get the good word out about the city. The business community in particular has been trying to set a new agenda. And it’s working, said Herbison, and not just on potential new retailers.

There’s so much interest that the city needs more prime retail estate, said Andrew Phillips, vice president of investment and retail services at Colliers International, a leading commercial and residential real estate services organization. “Class A” space – new construction in the highest trafficked areas – needs to be developed to meet demand.

“We need more product,” Phillips said. “We have requests all the time.”

The best retailers want that coveted prime space. The best spots are in eastern Memphis where incomes are higher and population figures bode plenty of potential shoppers. Over the next few years, Phillips expects some older retail space will be repositioned to meet this demand.

It’s exciting news. The sense that other people – big-gun retailers – are recognizing the value that Memphians already knew this city has in it is stimulating a renewed self-esteem.

“There’s a new pride,” Herbison said. 

Make no mistake, IKEA is a big part of that attitude.

“IKEA is a big win for Memphis,” said Collier’s Phillips. “We’ll see people come in from all over, as far as Nashville and Little Rock. People love IKEA.”

IKEA’s attorneys and real estate developers first connected with the Chamber this past summer. Chamber officials paired them with the appropriate city and county officials, and IKEA announced in December plans to build a 269,000-square-foot store on 35 acres near Wolfchase Galleria. The store, reportedly IKEA’s first in Tennessee, is slated to open in the fall of 2016. 

With reported sales of $36.9 billion last year, IKEA ranks as the world’s largest furniture retailer. It is very selective about where it puts its stores, making the selection of Memphis a “kind of a coup … because everyone’s been trying to recruit IKEA,” Herbison said. 

Having any destination retailer like IKEA, Herbison said, provides additional exposure for Memphis. Shoppers who wouldn’t normally come to the city make the drive, enjoy the city’s amenities and maybe decide to move here.

Or even bring their businesses here.

Story by: Toni Lepeska
Photo by: Wes Bramlitt

Posted: 4/20/2015 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: A, bass, crossroads, for, h&m, ikea, memphis, new, pro, retail, tale

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The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 ( or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (