New Viking invasion

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The Independent Online

If you thought Ikea was the last word on Scandinavian flat-pack furniture, think again. Denmark's leading retail furniture chain, BoConcept, is planning a massive assault on the UK, selling what it describes as upmarket versions of Ikea products – without the queues.

Flushed with the success of its two flagship stores in Bournemouth and on London's Tottenham Court Road, it is planning to open at least 48 new stores nationwide next five year.

BoConcept is the retail wing of the Danish furniture manufacturer Club 8, which has a presence in 42 countries. The reputation it has built in Denmark and throughout the Continent is strangely Ikea-like. Both are Scandinavian and both offer flat-pack furniture at prices which supposedly put your dream home within reach.

However, BoConcept has attempted to develop itself as a more sophisticated company. The layout of the stores is spacious and more pleasing to the eye than the convoluted jungle of Ikea. Its new "Lifestyle" catalogue emphasises "European living" and prides itself on comfort and simplicity.

Retail analysts expect BoConcept to be more of a rival to Habitat, which was bought by Ikea from the troubled Storehouse group.

BoConcept also offers an innovative interactive feature whereby shoppers can design their own ideal home layout over the internet; this can then be used once they're in the store. Its prices are expected to be rather higher than Ikea's, raising concerns that it could be caught in the middle ground between the cheap and cheerful and the reassuringly expensive.

However, it may still prove extremely difficult to break into the Ikea stronghold. With a turnover of more than £5bn, stores everywhere from Chicago to Beijing, and 230 million visitors worldwide, Ikea is a tough competitor.

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