Swedish home furnishings giant Ikea is to open a huge superstore in Coventry city centre.
The move was greeted with enthusiasm by city leaders who predicted the cachet of the world's largest furniture retailer would attract shoppers from across the West Midlands.
Unusually, Ikea has chosen a city centre site which adjoins the Coventry inner ring road and is close to the main retail area for its planned 230,000 sq ft store. The company has adopted a policy nationally of moving away from building large warehouse-type outlets on out of town sites in favour of locations at the heart of urban communities.
City council officials disclosed that they had been courting Ikea for five years in an effort to convince the company to come to Coventry.
The new store will be at least four storeys in height on a 4.5 acre site between Corporation Street and Croft Road.
Much of the land is presently occupied by a singlestorey Co-op foodstore, which will be demolished with the loss of 100 jobs. However, Ikea is promising to create 500 new jobs.
Co-op bosses blamed the closure on poor trading conditions over five years and significantly increased competition from other retailers.
The number of parking spaces on the site will increase from 400 to 900 when the Ikea store is completed.
Peter Walters, head of image at CV1, the city centre management company, said Ikea's decision represented a massive vote of confidence by a major retailer in the ongoing regeneration of Coventry.
The announcement is particularly welcome since it follows the closure earlier this year of Allder's, one of Coventry's oldest department stores.
Mr Walters said: "We are absolutely delighted. The challenge now is to make sure that the rest of the city centre is good enough so that the people who come to Ikea will stay for a drink or a meal and do some more shopping.
"This is a company with real pulling power and I can see this being the first piece in a much bigger jigsaw.
"Hopefully, it is the first of a number of big names coming into the city centre."
John McGuigan, director of development at Coventry City Centre, said the site would be ideal for Ikea.
Mr McGuigan added: "Ikea's presence will be hugely important because we know we have a weak retail offer in Coventry. This will hugely increase the footfall and bring many more people into the city centre."
Mr McGuigan said he was not surprised that Ikea, loved by the middle classes, had chosen Coventry.
"Ikea already have stores in Walsall and Nottingham and they are getting one in Milton Keynes. They want to make sure they are covering this area. There is a lot of money in the south end of the Midlands," he added.
Three years ago Ikea attempted to move to Birmingham, but plans to open a store on the MG Rover site at Longbridge were rejected by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.
The agency said it wanted to attract hi-tech industry to the A38 Technology Corridor rather than a retailer.
More than 33 million people visited a UK Ikea store last year.