The word IKEA is made up of
- IK: the initials of founder Ingvar Kamprad
- E: Elmtaryd, the farm on which he grew up
- A: Agunnaryd, the nearby village.
Ingvar Kamprad started his first business venture aged 5, selling matches. After that he moved on to pens and watches, riding around on his bicycle to his customers. He started IKEA at the age of 17, when he was too young to sign the papers, so his father and a guardian signed them on his behalf. IKEA has never been a listed company, and is probably described best as a foundation.
Ingvar Kamprad was a very smart man. He knew that people would leave a store if they needed to go to the toilet, if their children were bored, or if they were hungry. So he created stores that offered good play areas, cheap restaurants, and free toilets. He also offered very cheap food after the checkout counters. The layout of the store also means it is almost impossible to leave without buying something.
IKEA stores are usually located outside the city centre, in areas where rent is cheaper and there is less traffic and more space to build giant premises. Historically they were located in undeveloped spaces, which led to satellite shopping growing up around them – our biggest IKEA is surrounded by other furniture stores and large supermarkets, allowing for a one-stop-shop.
Recently IKEA have opened smaller shops in smaller city centre premises. They are large as city centre shops go (around 8000 sq metres/86111 sq feet) but still small for an IKEA. You can find all the smaller stuff there which is great. I can now pop into IKEA at the local mall and buy towels, shower curtains, cutlery and bedlinen on my way home. I can also pop into the IKEA restaurant for a cheap, quick lunch. IKEA is Sweden’s biggest exporter of meat, for the meatballs in their restaurants. IKEA is also the world’s largest single consumer of wood. It uses 1% of the world’s wood annually.
IKEA has also expanded its product base to include flat-pack houses and apartments, and also rents out furniture. There were plans to open IKEA hotels but I think there is still only one, the IKEA Hotell in Älmhult in Sweden.
I also like IKEA’s design studio. Last week we popped into our small IKEA to have a second set of kitchen cabinets designed to match our existing one. The existing one (Voxtorp) is beautiful, but IKEA no longer produce it in our colourway. The designer, Ruben, created one exactly like it. The design service is free of charge.
I work for a London company and when we needed to have some Billy shelves assembled a few years ago, the Brits fumbled around until a Swede stepped in and put those shelves together in a jiffy. I think Swedes are born knowing how to assemble IKEA furniture.
We have quite a bit of IKEA furniture, but we have not modified it in any way. Some people hack their furniture to be unique. Read more here