fiberboard (mdf)

IKEA HISTORY

THE BEGINING

Ingvar Feodor Kamprad was born on 30 March 1926, on a small farm called Elmtaryd near the village of Agunnaryd, in the Swedish province of Småland. Kamprad began his career at the age of six, selling matches. When just ten, he criss-crossed the neighbourhood on his bicycle, selling Christmas decorations, fish and pencils.

At the age of 17, in 1943, his father rewarded him with a small sum of money for doing well in school, despite being dyslexic. With it, Ingvar founded a business named IKEA, an abbreviation for Ingvar Kamprad from Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd, his boyhood home.

Two years after starting IKEA, he began using milk trucks to deliver his goods. In 1947, he started selling furniture made by local manufacturers. By 1955, manufacturers began boycotting IKEA, protesting against Kamprad’s low prices. This forced him to design items in-house. 

He is also behind the simple, yet revolutionary innovation that is the flat pack. He began selling IKEA products in flat-pack form, from his own warehouses. Thus the basic IKEA concept – simple, affordable flat-pack furniture, designed, distributed and sold in-house – was complete.The driving idea behind IKEA was, and is, that anyone should be able to afford stylish, modernist furniture. He felt he was not just cutting costs and making money, but serving the people as well.


THE FIRST STORES

The first store was opened in Älmhult, Småland, in 1958, while the first stores outside Sweden were opened in Norway (1963) and Denmark (1969). The stores spread to other parts of Europe in the 1970s, with the first store outside Scandinavia opening in Switzerland (1973), followed by West Germany (1974).

Older IKEA stores are usually blue buildings with yellow accents (also Sweden’s national colours) and few windows. They are often designed in a one-way layout, leading customers counter clockwise along what IKEA calls “the long natural way” designed to encourage the customer to see the store in its entirety (as opposed to a traditional retail store, which allows a customer to go directly to the section where the desired goods and services are displayed). There are often shortcuts to other parts of the showroom. Newer IKEA stores, like the one  make more use of glass, both for aesthetics and functionality. Skylights are also now common in the self-serve warehouses; natural lighting reduces energy costs, improves worker morale and gives a better impression of the products.


THE RESTAURANT

Every store includes a restaurant serving traditional Swedish food, including potatoes with Swedish meatballs, cream sauce and lingonberry jam, although there are variations. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the usual boiled potatoes have been replaced with French fries. Besides these Swedish foods, hot dogs and drinks are also sold, along with a few varieties of the local cuisine, and beverages such as lingonberry juice. Also items such as prinsesstårta (princess cake) are sold as desserts. Stores in Israel sell kosher food with a high degree of rabbinical supervision. The kosher restaurants are separated into dairy and meat areas; falafel and non-dairy ice cream are available at the exit. IKEA stores in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates serve chicken shawarma at the exit café as well as beef hot dogs, while in United Kingdom, a Quorn hot dog is available in the exit café.


PLAY AREA

Every store has a play area, named Småland (Swedish for small lands; it is also the Swedish province where Kamprad was born). Parents drop off their children at a gate to the playground, and pick them up after they arrive at another entrance. In some stores, parents are given free pagers by the on-site staff, which the staff can use to summon parents whose children need them earlier than expected; in others, staff summon parents through announcements over the in-store public address system.


FURNITURE

Rather than being sold pre-assembled, much of IKEA’s furniture is designed to be self-assembled. The company claims that this helps reduce costs and use of packaging by not shipping air; the volume of a bookcase, for example, is considerably less if it is shipped unassembled rather than assembled. This is also practical for many of the chain’s European customers, where public transport is commonly used, because the flat-pack methods allow for easier transport via public transportation.

IKEA contends that it has been a pioneering force in sustainable approaches to mass consumer culture. Kamprad calls this “democratic design,” meaning that the company applies an integrated approach to manufacturing and design. In response to the explosion of human population and material expectations in the 20th and 21st centuries, the company implements economies of scale, capturing material streams and creating manufacturing processes that hold costs and resource use down, such as the extensive use of Medium-Density Fiberboard (“MDF”). It is an engineered wood fibre glued under heat and pressure to create a building material of superior strength which is resistant to warp. IKEA uses cabinet-grade and furniture-grade MDF in all of its MDF products, such as PAX wardrobes and kitchen cupboards. IKEA also uses wood, plastic, and other materials for furniture and other products. The intended result is flexible, adaptable home furnishings, scalable both to smaller homes and dwellings as well as large houses.


INTERESTING FACTS

IKEA products are identified by one-word (rarely two-word) names. Most of the names are Scandinavian in origin. Although there are some exceptions, most product names are based on a special naming system developed by IKEA. Kamprad, found that naming the furniture with proper names and words, rather than a product code, made the names easier to remember.

  • Upholstered furniture, coffee tables, rattan furniture, bookshelves, media storage, doorknobs: Swedish placenames (for example: Klippan)
  • Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture: Norwegian place names
  • Dining tables and chairs: Finnish place names
  • Bookcase ranges: Occupations
  • Bathroom articles: Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays
  • Kitchens: grammatical terms, sometimes also other names
  • Chairs, desks: men’s names
  • Fabrics, curtains: women’s names
  • Garden furniture: Swedish islands
  • Carpets: Danish place names
  • Lighting: terms from music, chemistry, meteorology, measures, weights, seasons, months, days, boats, nautical terms
  • Bedlinen, bed covers, pillows/cushions: flowers, plants, precious stones
  • Children’s items: mammals, birds, adjectives
  • Curtain accessories: mathematical and geometrical terms
  • Kitchen utensils: foreign words, spices, herbs, fish, mushrooms, fruits or berries, functional descriptions
  • Boxes, wall decoration, pictures and frames, clocks: colloquial expressions, also Swedish place names

They Were The First Company To Feature A Gay Relationship In a Commercial.While the commercial only ran once in 1994, it was still a big deal for such a major company to release an ad with a homosexual couple. Since then, the company had ran a number of ads targeting the gay community, including one of the first ads to feature a transgender person

Their Catalog Is almost More Popular Than The Bible. Every year, there are almost three times more copies of the catalog printed than the bible. They started printing the catalog in 1951 and it has since taken on a life of its own, consuming a full 70% of the companies marketing budget every year and developing a devoted fan base of people who analyze the images looking for obscure books in the bookshelves, Mickey Mouse references and cats hiding in the fake households. There are now 55 editions printed in 27 languages every year.

IKEA Also Sell Houses. If you live in Scandinavia or the UK, don’t head to a real estate agent, head to IKEA and grab a flat-pack house for a fraction of the cost. The BoKlok houses were originally released in Sweden in 1996, and have since expanded to IKEA stores across Northern Europe.

FUTURE

Kamprad has been married twice. In his first marriage, to Kerstin Wadling, he adopted a daughter, Annika Kihlbom. In the other, to Margaretha Stennert, he has three sons: Peter, Jonas and Mathias. The three sons are gradually succeeding their father, who now serves as senior advisor at IKEA.