Furniture giant Ikea has appointed Gillian Drakeford to the role of country manager for the UK and Ireland.

Drakeford, who takes up the position tomorrow (Thursday), joins from Ikea’s China business where she was country manager.

Drakeford has worked for Ikea since 1987 when she formed part of the management team that opened the company’s first UK-based store in Warrington. Since then she has gone on to work in Ikea’s Hong Kong business and has been working for Ikea China for the past 10 years. The retailer’s Beijing store receives the highest number of Ikea visitors in the world.

Ikea said: “As a leader, Gillian has a genuine belief in people working together and successfully developed local senior leadership in the Ikea stores in China. She takes an inclusive approach to management, founded in the Ikea culture and values, of collaboration and professional development, which will contribute to strengthening the position of Ikea as leader of the home furnishings market in the UK and Ireland.”

Ikea said the appointment of Drakeford “supports Ikea’s continued ambition for increased diversity within the company’s senior leadership”.

Drakeford takes over from acting country manager Carole Reddish who has been appointed Ikea country manager for Norway. Reddish has worked for Ikea for 14 years and has been leading the UK business on an acting basis for 18 months.

Ikea said that under Reddish’s leadership “significant investments have been made to the customer shopping experience” including enhancing the web offer. Ikea said that the retailer has grown in share from 6.4% to 6.8% under her leadership.

Ikea north central Europe region retail manager Jeanette Söderberg said: “I would like to thank Carole for carrying through the assignment as acting country manager in the UK and Ireland with a dedicated heart and mind, strong common sense, thorough way of working and clear leadership. I am also happy to welcome Gillian to the UK and Ireland. Her personal capabilities, experience and energising leadership will be of great support in delivering the UK and Ireland’s strong business agenda”.