What We Wouldn’t Give for a New Poäng Chair

If only Las Vegas had its own IKEA! A search for answers to the long-lingering shopping question: Why are certain stores (Crate & Barrel!) still not in our market?

Photo by Anthony MairThe Crozers offer an IKEA delivery service in Las Vegas.

Politics and religion may divide the Silver State, but one question seems to unite all of us: Why don’t we have an IKEA?

The nearest outpost of the Swedish furniture store is nearly four hours away, in Southern California, where there are four within about 50 miles. For years, we Las Vegans have made pilgrimages to this land of IKEA riches, renting trucks and filling them with Bestå/Framstå/Inreda storage systems, Fjellse bed frames and Hönefoss mirrors. We make the trek because IKEA is notoriously difficult when it comes to shipping. Many items aren’t available for online orders, and those that are available come with a heavy shipping price tag.

Two years ago, Las Vegas residents William Crozer and his wife, Carrie Mauriello Crozer, decided that if IKEA wasn’t going to open up a store here, the couple would offer a delivery service to fellow IKEA-philes in Las Vegas. ModernLV.com has served nearly 400 clients, charging them a percentage of their total order (29 percent on orders less than $500, 20 percent on orders more than $500).

“We’ve had everything from churches to convention exhibitors to single moms expecting babies,” William says.

People still ask Mauriello all the time when an Ikea is going to open in Las Vegas. “We tell them not in the very near future,” she says. “And of course, we don’t want to go out of business, so we’ll wait as long as it takes.”

Just how long that will be is uncertain, according to Joseph Roth, U.S. public affairs manager for IKEA, but this much is clear: There are no plans to open a store in the Las Vegas area.

“We do recognize the potential customer base that would exist for us there,” he says, “but our criteria typically are a metropolitan area of approximately 2 million people or more.”

Perhaps IKEA is simply asking the wrong people. While the state demographer’s office had us at 1,952,040 residents as of March, the county’s Comprehensive Planning Department said the region passed the 2 million mark last fall.

Bottom line: “We know that Vegas is almost there, depending on how you count,” Roth says. “But we only have 37 stores in the whole country, so we’re not everywhere and we have to balance our expansion across various regions of the country.”

While even Draper, Utah, has an IKEA, Nevada remains barren.

But it’s not just IKEA that’s lacking in Las Vegas retail landscape. Although the retail offerings have expanded tremendously in recent years, many others are still absent. Why don’t we have a Crate & Barrel, for example? And what about a Club Monaco?

A public relations rep for Crate & Barrel said the store was too busy opening a new CB2 (not in Las Vegas) to answer. Club Monaco, a clothing retailer owned by Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., declined comment.

So we took the question to a resident expert. Angeline Close, assistant professor of marketing at UNLV’s College of Business, says the absence of big-box retailers doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering our market.

“Based on research from their point of view, they don’t really see Las Vegas as a viable market. They’re not really destination shopping experiences,” she says. “I think the tourists come here for experiential shopping. And when we’re talking about these big-box chain retailers, they may or may not be in our tourists’ home state or city. There’s not really an appeal of going to a chain store when they can go at home.”

The operative word in Close’s response: tourists. She emphasized that when retail-marketing managers think Las Vegas, their advertising dollars are directed at tourists, not locals.

Further, Close says that because Las Vegas has been positioned as a gaming and entertainment destination for so long, retailers often overlook the shopping market. The onus of changing that lies as much on the marketers of Las Vegas, itself, as well as out-of-market scouts.

But we have had happy retail endings before, thanks to the city’s population surge in the last decade. It wasn’t long ago when we were begging for Pottery Barn and West Elm. And just look: Today, we have both.