Partially in celebration of my Swedish sister in law’s receipt of permanent residency in the UK there seems no alternative but to praise what else Sweden has also given the world.
The one word that perhaps best sums up seemingly endless journey’s to their blue and yellow buildings, bloodied knuckles from a slipped Allen key during a tricky build, the undoubted delights of a festive Pepparkakor house and the insurmountable joy of arriving at the Hot Dog – now available in Quorn in the UK – counter after a tiring trapse along its endless corridors is : “IKEA“.
Without trivialising the legacy of great design that hails from Sweden – regulars will know I have celebrated the work of Pelle Petersen and his beautiful Volvo P1800S – see here – Volvo P1800 – the socio-political impact of Ingvar Kamprad’s smart idea is profound. The reliance by landlord’s, students and the modern family on the products offered by this ever present retail chain is way more than impressive. In addition, to remodelling children’s bedroom on an almost annual basis, my family are clinically addicted to the wonderful smoked salmon and meatballs.
Design lies at the heart of much of IKEAs strategy and the conscious promotion by naming the designer adjacent to a display of their designs is very engaging. This is more than IKEA’s introduction to a wider audience of curiously named products. Did you know that IKEA’s product names are based on a special naming system as developed by IKEA including, upholstered furniture has Swedish place names, beds have Norwegian place names and chairs have men’s names. Icons include the very comfortable chair POÄNG chair that celebrates its 40th birthday this year and was designed by Japanese designer, Noboru Nakamura.
Founded in 1943 by a 17 year old dyslexic Kamprad – seen below holding the ÖGLA chair in 1961. IKEA is an acronym of the founder’s initials, plus Elmtaryd (the family farm) and Agunnaryd (his Swedish hometown). Initially, it was a mail order business with deliveries being picked up from the family’s farm along with the milk to be dropped at the local train station. Ingvar started selling furniture in 1948. The first IKEA store was in Älmhult (Sweden) in 1953 that in 2016 became the IKEA Museum. He resigned from the operating company’s main board in 2013 – but not the controlling holding company – and his youngest son, Mathias, is now Chairman.
As of December 2016, IKEA owns and operates 392 stores in 48 countries with annual sales in 2016 of €36.4bn. In 2010, the company produced 197m catalogues in 20 languages and consuming 70% of the company’s annual marketing budget.
Ceaseless expansion continues with IKEA growing its product base to include flat-pack houses, apartments and soar panel packages with various sites identified in the UK in London, Leeds and Liverpool. Environmental, green-tech, waste and other social challenges are all an important focus for the company, its commercial and charitable operations.
Finally, a couple of observations about IKEA, which are quite possibly urban myths: that one in ten Europeans is conceived in an IKEA bed and that the IKEA catalogue is now read by more people than the combined readership of the Bible and the Koran!