Online shopping surge helps lift IKEA's full-year sales

STOCKHOLM, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Sales at IKEA furniture stores rose 4.5 percent in the fiscal year through August, helped by new store openings and rising online sales, franchisor Inter IKEA said on Wednesday.

Growth was in line with the previous year as nearly flat sales at existing stores was offset by a 31 percent jump in online sales.

The world’s largest furniture retailer saw total sales of goods and services reach 38.8 billion euros ($45 billion) during the 12 months.

In reported currencies, that was 1 percent higher than a year earlier.

Excluding new stores opened during the 12 months, sales growth in local currencies was also 1 percent.

“IKEA has seen continued growth despite a challenging and changing retail environment,” Inter IKEA CEO Torbjorn Loof said in a statement.

Online sales accounted for 5 percent of turnover.

“We see that we have flattened out a bit on sales in existing stores while we have strong growth through expansion and online,” Loof told Reuters.

The group opened 19 stores worldwide during the financial year, taking the number of IKEA stores to 422 in more than 50 markets.

IKEA unveiled a strategy shift last year towards also opening city-centre showrooms.

It is also investing in better services ranging from augmented reality apps to delivery and assembly, as competition grows and the appeal of its out-of-town warehouse stores dims on the back of the online shift.

IKEA stores are owned by 11 franchisees. The biggest one, IKEA group, has 367 stores in 30 markets. ($1 = 0.8703 euros) (Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Susan Fenton)