Although late to online retail,Swedish retailer IKEA’s CEO Peter Agnefjäll said the company has plans to grow the e-commerce business significantly over the next five years.

The privately-owned firm, which records annual revenues in excess of US$22.4 billion and operates stores in 42 countries, currently has an online offering in 13 of its markets. Around 80% of the group’s total sales are generated in Europe and it’s aiming for an average growth rate of about 10% a year, partly through growing its online business.

Agnefjäll said the group is working on a new website as well as the logistics of getting its products to customers.

“Today our e-commerce business is 1 billion euros. It will probably be 5 billion euros in 5-6 years from now,” he said.

Online retail has boomed in recent years, but IKEA’s business is still mainly conducted in its vast warehouse stores. “We could have been faster, I could agree to that,” Agnefjäll told the media.

“But by being late we can skip a step in the technology development, straight to mobile and tablet.”

Although IKEA is not immune to the current economic climate, the economic downturn, resulting in a greater demand for value for money, has benefited it, Agnefjäll said.

“Overall, from a market perspective it (the downturn) fits us quite well.”

He was positive about the European economy, arguing that Europe was bouncing back and that the perception of a recovery was perhaps lagging behind.

Agnefjäll said the fact that the group had not listed on a stock market allowed it to think more long term.

“For us it has served us very well to be privately held … In our model the money never goes away. It can either be handed out to charity or reinvested in the business.”

That enables the group to invest year after year, even if markets are volatile, he argued.

This story first appeared in Appliance Retailer