MOSCOW - Belarusian furniture company Swed House, which sells items intended to look like those made by Swedish giant IKEA, opened its first store in Moscow on Saturday to a mixed initial reaction from consumers.
IKEA halted all retail and production operations in Russia soon after Moscow started its "special military operation" against Ukraine, along with scores of other Western companies.
"We are not IKEA - we aim to be like IKEA, we have our own brands, our own goods. Yes, we have IKEA items as well," said Swed House general director Mamedali Kasymov.
"We sell them -- 15% to 20% of our range are original IKEA products. Nobody prohibited us from doing this ... our own Swed House goods are in big demand as well," he said, referring to the packed store.
Customers inside the store, who declined to give their surnames, offered differing views.
"We have been missing IKEA a lot lately. This new store is, let's say, a pleasant beginning," said Natalia.
Others said the premises were too small.
"Goods must not be just lying on top of each other. IKEA had a certain approach to product placement ... you could lie on beds, test the furniture," said Iohann. "If these guys want to improve, the road ahead is still very long."
Swed House initially aims to open five stores in Moscow malls before moving into other Russian regions next year, Kasymov said. IKEA briefly resumed online sales last summer and part of the company still operates 14 MEGA-branded shopping malls in Russia.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by David Ljunggren and Daniel Wallis)