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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Ikea reaches UK sales milestone
Ikea store
Ikea is popular with British shoppers
Swedish furniture chain Ikea has said its UK stores broke through the 1bn ($1.8bn) sales barrier for the first time in its most recent financial year.

Ikea's UK chief, Peter Hogsted, told Retail Week magazine that sales cleared the 1bn mark after rising 15% in the year to 31 August.

Mr Hogsted attributed the firm's strong performance to improved customer service and longer opening hours.

It comes despite tough conditions in the wider UK furniture market.

Credit issue

Two of Ikea's British rivals, MFI and Courts, have both issued profits warnings in recent weeks.

Analysts also say rising interest rates and a weaker property market are likely to reduce the number of people moving house in the months ahead, cutting demand for furniture.

Mr Hogsted said the firm's decision in August to levy a 70p charge on all credit card transactions did not appear to have had an adverse impact on sales.

Ikea sells flat-pack furniture, which customers assemble themselves, at competitive prices in large out-of-town stores.

Founded in Sweden in 1943, the company has proved a hit with British homeowners since opening its first UK store in 1987.

Ikea has a total of 186 stores in 31 countries worldwide.

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