Lines at Ottawa's new Ikea were smaller than expected Wednesday morning as Canada's biggest location threw open its doors for the first time.

The staff was ready for thousands of people, but only about 500 lined up for the 9 a.m. opening.

"It's always so unpredictable, you never really know what to expect; it's December and it's a Wednesday," said Ikea spokesperson Christine Hunter. "There's a lot of anticipation for a lot of visitors throughout the day."  

Staff banged thundersticks and gave away free chairs to the first 100 people in line, some of who had been there since Tuesday afternoon.

Michele Pomerant won a $10,000 gift card for waiting five days in line.

"I need to fix things up around my house and we just don't have the money to do that right now," she said.

"I can point out in a commercial or in a movie which lamps are from Ikea, which carpets are from Ikea," said Cassidy McCormick, a 15-year-old self-confessed "Ikea addict."

Police said there were minimal traffic disruptions, around par for normal rush hour in the area.

Some see this as Ikea positioning itself for more competition in Ottawa's retail market.

Target stores are coming in 2013, plans are underway for a new outlet mall in Kanata and Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres are both planning major expansions.

"There's lots of enthusiasm and it gives you a lot more choices," said one shopper.

"A hundred new permanent jobs have now been created for the residents of Ottawa, so congratulations to those new employees," said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

This Ikea has been ten years in the works, as it worked through various planning stages.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Catherine Lathem