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20 Things You Didn't Know About IKEA


IKEA is one of the best-known and most successful home furniture companies in the world. This Swedish company also sells a wide range of home accessories and interior design items. They are famous for their modern designs, eco-friendly products, low prices, and flat-pack furniture. Even if you have never visited one of their stores or bought one of their products, it is likely that you will have heard of this furniture company. Although IKEA is extremely well-known, there are probably many things that you do not know about this company. Here are 20 fun and interesting facts about IKEA.

1. It Was Founded in 1943

IKEA was founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad. At the time, he was just 17 years of age. Initially, it was a mail order sales business that was based in Sweden. After five years, he began to sell furniture and opened his first store in 1958 in Almhult, Smaland. He called his first store Mobel-IKEA. The word ‘Mobel’ is Swedish for furniture. The company is now based in Leiden, Netherlands.

2. Ingvar Kamprad is One of the Richest People in the World

Although he was just 17 when he started his business, the success of IKEA has led to Ingvar Kamprad becoming one of the richest men in the world. He was on the 2016 Forbes list of billionaires. The exact figure of his personal net wealth varies from $3.3 billion to $53 billion, depending on whether IKEA is counted in his personal net wealth or as an asset of his foundation.

3. It is the World’s Largest Furniture Retailer

What started as a mail order business and then became a small chain of furniture shops expanded rapidly and is now a global business. Since 2008, IKEA has been the largest furniture retailer in the world. They currently have 415 stores in 49 countries and there are plans to open even more stores in the near future. They employ over 150,000 people and have an annual revenue of around $37.8 billion. It is estimated that one-tenth of the furniture purchased in the UK annually comes from IKEA.

4. The Name is an Acronym

If you are a fan of IKEA stores and their products, you have probably wondered about the name of the company. Although it is read as a single word, it is actually an acronym created by the founder. The first two letters stand for the founder’s name Ingvar Kamprad. The ‘E’ stands for Elmtaryd, which is the name of the farm on which Kamprad grew up. The ‘A’ stands for Agunnaryd, which was a nearby village.

5. They Are Also Known for Their Food

Although they are a furniture and interior accessories retailer, IKEA has also become known for their food. All their stores have an exit café where customers can grab something to eat after shopping. Some of their cafes open before the stores so that customers can get their day off to a good start with a hearty breakfast. The IKEA cafes are famous for their Swedish food, especially their meatballs which are served in every café. The stores across the world also serve local cuisine, so the menus vary depending on the country in which the store is located. The first café was opened in 1960 when the founder realized people were going home without making a purchase because they were hungry. The first café at a UK IKEA opened in 1987 and they have since sold 11.6 billion portions of meatballs and 1.2 billion hotdogs to customers in the UK.

6. Stores Have Kids Play Areas

IKEA is a popular choice among families. With this in mind, a decision was made to add play areas to IKEA stores so that families can make a day of their trip to IKEA. They can shop, enjoy a meal, and have fun. Parents are also allowed to leave their children while they shop. The kids play areas are called Smaland, which translates in Swedish as small lands and is also the name of the province in which the founder was born. At some of the stores, parents are given a pager so that the play area staff can contact them if there is a problem with their child.

7. A Bookcase Is the Most Popular Product

IKEA sells a vast range of products, most of which fall into the furniture category. There are furniture items available for all purposes and intended for every room in the home. The best-selling item of all these is the Billy Bookcase. The company sold 503,441 in under a two-month period between September 1 and October 25 in 2012. The figures suggest that IKEA sells one of these bookcases every ten seconds.

8. They Use Huge Amounts of Wood

Many of the products sold by IKEA are created using wood-based materials, such as wood, reformed wood chip, and particleboard made from sawdust. They use huge amounts of wood products each year. It is estimated that this company uses approximately one percent of the world’s commercial wood supply. A Swedish company called Hultsfred is the only supplier of particleboard made from sawdust and they process approximately 30 million pounds in weight of sawdust daily.

9. Their Visitor and Product Sales Figures Are Staggering

The number of visitors this furniture retailer has to its stores is staggering. In all their stores across the world, IKEA had over 690 million customers in 2012 alone. This figure is greater than double the population of the United States. The figures relating to their product sales are just as phenomenal. Each year, this retailer delivers an estimated 800 million cubic feet worth of products. To put this into perspective, that is enough to fill around 9,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.

10. They Use as Efficiency Model That Keeps Prices Low

One reason why IKEA is so popular is that the prices are low. This is because they have used an efficiency model which has allowed them to gradually improve the efficiency of their operations and keep their prices as low as possible. Unlike many companies that improve efficiency to save money and then increase prices to gain a bigger profit margin, IKEA have passed on their savings to their customers. Since 2000, they have reduced their prices by at least two percent every year. This efficiency and low price model has now become an important element fo the brand.

11. A Side Table Was the First Flat-Pack Furniture Sold

IKEA is now well-known for selling flat-pack furniture that is cheap to buy and people can assemble at home. The first item of furniture that became part of their flat-pack range was the LOVET. This was a leaf-shaped side table. It first appeared in the IKEA catalogue in 1956, 13 years after the company was founded.

12. Their Catalog is More Widely Distributed Than the Bible

It is well-known that the Bible is one of the best-selling books of all time. However, the distribution figures of the IKEA catalogue exceeded the sales figures of the Bible one year. In 2012, there were 212 million copies of the IKEA catalogue printed. These were printed in 29 different languages. In the same year, it was estimated that there were 100 million Bibles sold. This meant that more than twice as many KIEA catalogues were distributed than there were Bibles sold that year.

13. Product Names Were Chosen to Accommodate the Founder’s Dyslexia

You may have wondered how the product names of this company are chosen. Ingvar Kamprad has dyslexia and found it difficult to work with catalogue numbers. Instead, they decided to give each of the products a name. These names depended on the type of products. For example, the furniture is grouped into categories that are then each given Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, or Scandinavian place names. The children’s range has products named after mammals, birds or adjectives. The garden furniture is all named after Swedish islands, while soft furnishings are given either women’;s names or mathematical terms.

14. They Have Sold Smart Products Since 2016

Throughout its history, IKEA have adapted their range of products in line with current trends and the demands of the public. Since 2016, they have sold a range of smart home products. The first product they sold was the TRADFRI smart lighting kit. IKEA’s move into this technological field has meant they have needed to collaborate with other companies. They have a partnership with Philips Hue and have also collaborated with Sono to include their speaker systems in a range of furniture that will launch in 2019.

15. They Were Involved in an Environmental Scandal

IKEA are now well-known for producing eco-friendly furniture and for having a range of strategies in place to minimize the impact of their manufacturing processes on the environment. However, this has not always been the case and they have previously been involved in an environmental scandal. In both the early 1980s and in 1992, IKEA was the subject of a highly publicized environmental scandal that related to the use of formaldehyde in their products and manufacturing processes. While this negatively impacted on the company in the short-term, they turned the situation around by putting steps in place to resolve the situation and showing that they were using measures that would limit their impact on the environment in the long-term.

16. They Give Money to Charities

IKEA is a very giving company and they support many charitable causes. They have the INGKA Foundation which promotes innovations in architecture and interior design and this gives money to a wide range of charitable organizations, often in response to natural disasters. These have included the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the Kashmir earthquake of 2005, and the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. They have also provided furniture for more than 100 Liberian bridge schools. IKEA formed their Social Initiative in 2005 and this is in partnership with Save the Children and UNICEF.

17. IKEA Faced a Horsemeat Scandal

In addition to the environmental scandal, another scandal that IKEA has faced is one involving horsemeat. In 2013, food testing in the Czech Republic found traces of horsemeat in the beef and pork Swedish meatballs sold by IKEA in their cafes. This resulted in IKEA withdrawing 17,000 portions of their meatballs to prevent them from being consumed by their customers. Despite withdrawing the products from sale, they failed to inform consumers of the test findings. They only admitted that their meatballs had contained horsemeat when it was revealed in the Swedish media. The horsemeat was traced to a Polish abattoir and a representative of IKEA said they had forced their main supplier to cease business with eight of their suppliers as a result of the scandal.

18. US Consumers Confused Some of the IKEA Products

When IKEA first opened stores in the United States, some of their products were selling surprisingly well. One such product was the small flower vase. While these had been a popular product in other countries, the sales figures from the United States stores seemed higher than they would have expected. They decided to investigate the cause of the excellent sales figures and discovered that US consumers had believed the vases were tumblers. For this reason, they had been buying four to eight at a time as you would buy a tumbler set.

19. Many Raw Materials Are Sourced from China

Although this is now a global company, it is typically associated with Europe because of its Swedish history. However, this is not where most of the raw materials come from as IKEA source their materials from various locations across the globe. IN fact, 20 percent of their raw materials originate in China. IKEA was one of the first non-Asian large manufacturers and retailers to begin sourcing their raw materials from this part of the world. The first material that IKEA sourced from China was 20 kilometres of cut-price denim. They needed this fabric to upholster their furniture.

20. The Mattresses Are One of the Most Popular IKEA Products in the UK

One of the most popular products among customers in the United Kingdom is the mattresses. Since 1987 when the first UK IKEA store opened in Warrington, records show that UK consumers have purchased 12.8 million customers from this retailer. This is the equivalent of almost one for every two households in the UK. A surprising and unusual fact relating to these figures is that an estimated one in five children in Britain has been conceived on a mattress that was purchased from IKEA.

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Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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