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Swede inspiration; The store with a world-wide following of 230 million.

IT'S been a long time coming, but it's finally time to celebrate - IKEA are opening their first Glasgow store at Braehead Shopping Centre later this month.

If you've been living in Outer Mongolia for the last 40 years, you might wonder why anyone would get excited about a new store opening.

But for all us dedicated followers of home fashion, IKEA isn't just a furniture shop. For customers in search of top styles at the lowest prices, IKEA is a Mecca.

All over the world, this temple to good taste has attracted a devout following. Last year alone, more than 230 million people throughout the world religiously paid a visit to IKEA and between them spent a staggering pounds 5.7 billion.

In the UK's 10 stores, at a time when many high street shops are suffering from a recession, 26 million customers spent a record pounds 800 million, an increase of pounds 60 million from the previous year.

To add to these fascinating facts, the IKEA catalogue also rivals the Bible as the book with the biggest circulation.

IKEA boasts 141 stores in 22 countries and another 19 shops owned and run by franchisees in another 12 countries.

So how did Ingvar Kamprad, who started business life as a young Swedish schoolboy selling pencils and rubbers round the doors to help support his family, end up becoming the founder of one of the world's largest furniture retailers?

It all really began in 1948 when Ingvar took an advertisement in a local agricultural paper, offering an armless nursing chair and a coffee table. The response was so good that the young entrepreneur then added a sofa bed and a cut-glass chandelier to his furniture range and produced a brochure called Ikea News.

In a shed on the family farm, Ingvar packed his mail order goods which were picked up by the milk bus and taken to the railway station for distribution.

This is all a far cry from the present day IKEA, with each UK store employing a staff of around 500 and a five-year pounds 60 million contract given to Exel Direct to improve the firm's home delivery service

The secret of this phenomenal success story is what Goran Nilsson, IKEA's managing director in the UK, calls Democratic Design.

He said: "This means offering well designed home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible can afford them. Over the last five years, we have cut prices by more than 16 per cent." Some of the biggest savings will be found in the kitchen department of the new Glasgow store, where the two top selling ranges, Adele and Nexus, have been reduced by up to 28 per cent.

Other bargain buys to look out for are the Norden birch dining table reduced from pounds 245 to pounds 145, the Lyksele sofa bed, down from pounds 225 to just pounds 145 and the Expedit beech bookcase, previously priced at pounds 129 and now selling for pounds 98.

The new IKEA store is also packed with a great range of new products. Richard Clack, one of several British designers who works for IKEA in Sweden, highlighted his favourites.

He said: "Some people think of IKEA as being only for the very young on a tight budget. It's true that a lot of our designs are aimed at helping people furnish their first home for the minimal amount of money. One of the latest products worth checking out in this range is the Attityd mini-kitchen, complete with stainless steel sink, mixer taps, ceramic hob, fridge with freezer compartment and storage, for just pounds 495.

"But if you are looking for some timeless elegance, there's IKEA's new Green Room which has a wonderful selection of wicker, rattan and seagrass furniture.

"There's also the Scandinavian Natural look, made mainly in pine, but with select items stained in bright Swedish folklore colours."

The new store at Braehead, the first in the UK to have the Smaland play concept, will also boast the biggest restaurant and opens at 10am on Thursday, September 20.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 4, 2001
Words:681
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