Famed for affordable prices, innovative marketing and sustainability, IKEA has tested users’ wits with its self-assembly ethos
How big are they?
A £24bn company with 315 stores in 27 countries and 1,002 home furnishing suppliers in 51 nations. A typical IKEA store contains more than 9,500 products.
What are they good at?
Using as few materials as possible to make furniture, and ensuring that more than 50% of its goods come from sustainable or recycled products. They also scrupulously monitor the ‘cost per touch’ by encouraging customers to inspect furniture and retrieve the packages themselves and, in the words of CEO Peter Agnefjäll, “hate air” when it comes to shipping product.
Can you be more specific?
Take the Ektorp sofa. In 2010, IKEA made the pack for the sofa flat, halving the pack size, reducing the trucks needed to transport it by 7,477 a year and cutting the sale price by 14%. They achieved this by redesigning the product so the consumer had to attach the arms.
Presumably, consumers were happy to do that because the sofa was so much cheaper?
Up to a point. The assembly of some IKEA products has proved problematic. One storage unit, the Liatorp, which comes complete with 169 screws and a 32-page instruction book, is colloquially known in America as the “the divorcemaker”. One psychologist, who uses IKEA products in therapy sessions, has described the brand’s stores as a “map of relationship nightmares”.
A table that suggests recipes
One of IKEA’s new ideas is a Table For Living, which can detect foods and ingredients on its surface and, using software to tap into your home computer, suggest recipes and preparation techniques. The table was created with US design firm Ideo as a concept for the kitchen of 2025.