01/10/2012 08:21 BST | Updated 01/10/2012 10:22 BST

Ikea Celebrates 25 Years In The UK (VIDEO)

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Ikea stores in Britain.

In 1987, Ikea's iconic yellow and blue building first appeared in Warrington - not the most obvious starting place to build an empire - there are now four stores in the greater London area and 14 others across the UK.

Gemma Arranz, Ikea's UK interior design manager, told Huffington Post UK much of the brands success relied on understanding that while there are similarities between European's homes, there are national differences too.

"We know the UK has the smallest houses in Europe, but a much higher need for storage. So in our in-store room set displays, we show many locally adapted storage solutions," she said.

"We are constantly adapting these solutions as we learn more about our customers, through surveys and home visits, and their changing home life.

"Ikea’s vision is to create a better every day life for the many people and over the past 25 years, by learning about our customers’ needs, dreams and tastes, we have had a big influence on the shape of UK homes.”

Some of the items on sale have barely changed in 25 years. The iconic Billy bookcases which debuted in 1985 are still on sale today.

billy 1987

Billy bookcase from 1987

billy 2012

Billy bookcases today

Ikea's advertising campaigns have been a key driver for their continued success, combining controversial and critical statements about their customers' living habits with a slice of very British humour.

Take the ‘Chuck Out Your Chintz’ TV campaign in 1996 - a large blue skip was lowered into a town street with housewives encouraged to “fight chintz oppression with bold self-expression” and rip their homes’ interiors apart.



Stills from the 'Chuck Out Your Chintz' advert

And the 'Stop Being So English' in 2000 lampooned the lifestyle of uptight middle-England residents, taking the mick our of everything from Charlotte Bronte to lovers of ketchup.

Way back in 1990 it launched its first environmental policy to ensure that the company and its co-workers took environmental responsibility for all activities conducted in the business.

Other initiatives include a forestry management programme (launched in 1998), a community programme in association with UNICEF to address the root causes of child labour in India.

It's also well known for its environmental credentials - it joined forces with the WWF Partnership to curb illegal logging in Russia, and a partnership with the Woodland Trust means that every time an IKEA Family member swipes their card at a till, 10p is donated to help save the UK’s woodland.

Energy-saving light bulbs are given away for free to co-workers and it was among the first to remove plastic bags from its stores, taking more than 100 million plastic bags out of use.

1987 the first store

Ikea's first store in Warrington

Ikea isn't without its controversy however; in the 1990s its founder Ingvar Kamprad was outed as a member of the Swedish Nazi party.

A book by a Swedish journalist published in 2011 reignited anger against the billionaire when it claimed the Swedish police kept a file on Ingvar Kamprad, claiming his flirtation with Nazism went deeper than 'youthful confusion'.

And today a Swedish newswire has claimed women have been erased from the Saudi Arabian catalogue.


A copy of Sweden's Metro showing the airbrushed and the original images

Sweden's minister of trade Ewa Björling told the Swedish Metro the retouched images are a "sad example" of women oppression.

"Women can not be retouch away in reality. If Saudi Arabia does not allow women to appear [in public] or work, they lose about half their intellectual capital," she told Metro.

And last week, Reuters reported Ikea had removed a photograph from its Russian website of people in colourful ski masks as they were too similar to those worn by punk band Pussy Riot, three of whose members were jailed after staging a protest against Vladimir Putin in a church.

The picture, which showed four people in the masks sitting on IKEA furniture, had been posted on a section of the site which displays photographs of customers posing at stores.

A notice on the website confirmed the image had been removed and said: "IKEA is a commercial organisation that conducts its activity outside of politics and religion."

"We cannot allow our advertising project to be used as a platform for campaigning of any kind," it added.