How Ikea brought Scandi style to the masses

How Ikea brought Scandi style to the masses
Copyright REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File Photo
Copyright REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File Photo
By Stuart William Oates
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Swedish founder of furniture giant IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad has died aged 91, but leaves a company which changed the face of home furnishing forever


Designer furniture used to be reserved for the wealthy few, who could afford to commission some creative craftsperson to construct something unique. For everyone else, there were various shaped wooden boxes which provided somewhere to sleep, somewhere to store your socks and somewhere to place your cup of tea. 

The IKEA story began in 1943 in the small village of Agunnaryd in Sweden, when founder Ingvar Kamprad was just 17, as a catalogue homeware supplier. The business was named using Kamprad’s initials, plus the first letters of Elmtaryd, the farm where he grew up, and Agunnaryd, his hometown in Småland, south Sweden.

It was more than a decade before the first item of flatpack furniture appeared. It was the LOVET, a leaf-shaped side table, which first appeared in the 1956 catalogue. Since then the flat pack range has become synonymous with the brand. In just one month, it now sells around half a million Billy bookcases around the world. It is its most popular product.

But IKEA hasn't avoided controversy. Over the years, they moved into a vast array of products, including their Swedish meatballs, which were found to contain horsemeat in a scandal that went across numerous retailers. 

But that did little to dent Kamprad's wealth. Once listed as the world’s fourth richest man and up until he died aged 91, he ranked in the top ten of Bloomberg's Billionaires Index with an estimated net worth of $58.7bn (€47.2bn).

That success had made for some pretty impressive facts and figures:

  • The IKEA Group has grown into a major retail experience with 183,000 employees in 25 countries/territories generating annual sales of more than 36.4 billion euros. 

  • There are 389 stores worldwide, with new markets booming in China and across Asia.

  • Last year 198 million copies of the catalogue were printed in 56 editions and 27 languages. That's almost twice the number of Bibles which are estimated to be distributed every year.

  • The top five purchasing countries are China 20%, Poland 18%, Italy 8%, Germany 6% and Sweden 5%.

  • IKEA says that one in five babies born in Britain was conceived in an IKEA bed. 

  • Kamprad first opened a restaurant in an Ikea shop in 1960, after he realised too many people visited the shop, but left without buying because they were hungry. Ikea estimates it has sold over 11.6 billion Swedish meatballs and more than 1.2 billion hotdogs to its British customers since it opened in the UK in 1987.

  • Nearly one billion people visited an IKEA store in 2016.

  • A spoof soap opera was once filmed in an Ikea store in a Burbank, California location in 2009 without permission. Actors wore hidden microphones and acted out dramatic plots about infidelity. 

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