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08/21/2013

How do you say Swedish meatballs in Mandarin?

China Ikea

Ikea predicts that China will soon be its second most important market.  (Reuters file photo)

If you had any doubts that Ikea would one day rule the world, think again.

The giant Swedish retailer has opened its third store in Shanghai, more stores than in any other Asian city, reports China Daily. And the world's biggest furniture retailer predicts China will soon be its second most important market.

In April, Ikea's CEO Mikael Ohlsson said that the company should have 40 stores in China by 2020, according to Bloomberg. New stores are soon planned for Beijing, Ningbo and Chongqing.

Controlled by Swedish billionaire Ingvar Kamprad, Ikea is looking at China, Russia and other growing markets in an effort to decrease its reliance on recession-plagued Europe, home to 245 of its 338 stores, notes Bloomberg.

Ikea dominates the global furniture market. The company boasts  776 million store visits - equivalent to 1,400 store visits a minute and the 2013 Ikea catalogue was printed in 62 different versions in 29 languages.

The opening of the new 55,000 square metre store in a Shanghai suburb last week was a runaway success. The Financial Times reports nearly 80,000 people stood in line to buy Ikea's famous Swedish meatballs. The line was so intense some fainted and there were reports of vomiting as customers waited in 35 C heat.

Ikea has smartly tailored itself for the Chinese market, displaying its blonde furniture in small, apartment style set-ups to mirror the tiny spaces most families occupy in the Baoshan District, home to the new store.

A hip, functional Ikea living room can be bought for less than 3000 Chinese Yuan or $490 and kitchens for 1,700 Yuan or $285, the FT said.

Columnist Patti Waldmeir toured the Shanghai store and described it like this: "It’s like a massive Chinese doll’s house filled with Swedish furniture, and arranged to make the best of mainland property prices."

Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga

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