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IKEA is a Swedish home furnishing retailer. It has 179 large stores in 36 countries as of spring 2003. Most are throughout Europe, the rest are in the US, Canada, Asia and Australia.

The company was founded by Ingvar Kamprad at age 17 in 1943. The name is a composite of the first letters in his personal name, the names of the property and the village where he grew up: Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.

Originally IKEA sold pens, wallets, picture frames, table runners, watches, jewellery and nylon stockings or practically anything Kamprad found a need for that he could fill with a product at a reduced price. The first furniture was introduced into the IKEA product range in 1947 and in 1955, IKEA began to design its own furniture.

At first Kamprad sold his goods out of his home and by mail order, but eventually a store was opened in the nearby town of Älmhult. It was also the location for the first IKEA "warehouse" store which came to serve as a model for IKEA establishments elsewhere and in 1963 the first store outside Sweden was opened in Oslo.

IKEA furniture is well-known for its modern (often unusual) design, and because much of it is designed to be assembled by the consumer, rather than being sold pre-assembled. IKEA claims that this permits them to reduce costs and use of packaging by not shipping air (the volume of a bookcase, for example, is considerably less if it is shipped disassembled rather than assembled).

See also: List of Swedish companies

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