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IKEA Canada president Marsha Smith is seen in Toronto on June 6, 2017.

Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ikea says it's on track to double the number of stores it has in Canada over the next decade because it believes today's Internet-savvy shoppers still see the value in a bricks-and-mortar experience.

"If I'm buying furniture, I want to feel it. I want to be able to see it and I want to be able to get inspired," said Marsha Smith on Tuesday in her first media interview since taking over as president of Canadian operations in February.

"That's what customers go for, they go for the whole day out, to be inspired, to get ideas, in a real, almost real-life setting."

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The Swedish furniture retailer has been in Canada for 40 years but only operates 12 full-sized stores, six smaller pick-up and order stores, and nine collection locations in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and in Atlantic Canada.

Its plan is to have 24 locations by 2025, with one store slated for opening in Halifax in the fall and another in Quebec City by the summer of 2018. No other potential locations have been confirmed.

One of the reasons for the slow expansion pace is that Ikea likes to do extensive research on a location before deciding to open up a physical shop.

"We're completely on target," said Smith, who came to Canada from Ikea Dublin.

"We are slow and steady and that's the recipe that works for us and we'll continue to be that way."

The furniture sector has become increasingly competitive in the past few years as a number of online-only retailers such as Vancouver-based Article and mattress seller Endy have entered the market, appealing to customers who want to save money by buying pieces purely online.

Smith says for the retailer, it's about finding that right "balance" between having a bricks-and-mortar footprint and an online presence. Its e-commerce website has grown to have a catalogue of more than 8,000 items, while an average store location has around 9,000 items.

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In 2016, Ikea Canada says it had $2.05-billion in overall sales, with online sales growing by 41.3 per cent and store sales growing by 12.7 per cent.

Since her arrival four months ago, she's been on a cross-country tour of existing stores to meet with staff, and has also visited about a dozen homes, condos and open houses to get a feel of how the Canadian market varies from the United Kingdom.

One of the biggest differences she says she found has been that Canadians want to be efficient when they shop – whether they choose to go to a store, do click and collect, or shop online and have their items delivered to their homes.

"(Customers) place a bigger value on time because we lead busy and hectic lives. It's important to us that we offer the shopping channel the customer is telling us they want," said Smith.

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