IKEA's Coventry store to close in first UK shut down

LONDON (Reuters) - IKEA’s British arm is to shut a loss-making store in Coventry, central England, its first big closure in the country, putting 352 jobs at risk, the world’s biggest furniture maker said on Tuesday.

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The store in Coventry’s city centre, which was built in 2007, is one of 22 the Swedish company operates in Britain.

It said visitor numbers to the store had been substantially lower than expected and were continuing to fall as customers preferred to shop in retail parks and online. Also the store suffered from high operating costs because it was built over seven levels.

“Although this isn’t an easy decision, this is the right decision for the long-term success of IKEA in the UK,” said Peter Jelkeby, IKEA’s UK and Ireland country manager.

The move comes as Britain’s retailers are struggling, with many outlets closing as shoppers opt to spend more online.

To meet the growing challenge from online shopping globally, IKEA is rolling out smaller, but more accessible, inner-city stores with more digital and other services. Historically most IKEA stores have been in out-of-town locations.

And despite the Coventry closure IKEA said it remained committed to Britain.

The retailer pointed out that last year it opened its most sustainable store to date in Greenwich, south east London, as well as two planning studios in the capital.

Also this year the group’s shopping centre business, Ingka Centres, spent 170 million pounds buying a mall in Hammersmith, west London, paving the way for the brand’s first small-format city store in the UK.

IKEA said it will enter a consultation period with the 352 affected workers. Its intention is to retain as many as possible within the group.

Reporting by James Davey. Editing by Jane Merriman