The following history shows how IKEA, over six decades, travelled from the little woods of southern Sweden to becoming a major retail experience in 40 countries around the world.
The IKEA story started in 1926 when founder Ingvar Kamprad was born in Småland in southern Sweden. He was raised on ‘Elmtaryd’, a farm near the small village of Agunnaryd. Even as a young boy Ingvar knew he wanted to develop a business.
At the age of five Ingvar Kamprad started selling matches to his neighbours. By the time he was seven, he started selling further afield with his bicycle. He found that he could buy matches in bulk cheaply in Stockholm, sell them individually at a very low price and yet make a good profit. From matches he expanded to selling flower seeds, greeting cards, Christmas tree decorations, and later pencils and ball-point pens.
When Ingvar Kamprad turned 17, his father gave him money as a reward for succeeding in his studies. He used it to establish his own business. The name IKEA is formed from the founder’s initials (I.K.) plus the first letters of Elmtaryd (E) and Agunnaryd (A), the farm and village where he grew up. IKEA originally sold pens, wallets, picture frames, table runners, watches, jewellery and nylon stockings – meeting people’s needs with products at reduced prices.
IKEA’s decision to design its own furniture stemmed, ironically, from competitors’ pressure for suppliers to boycott IKEA. Exploration of flat packaging began when one of the first IKEA co-workers removed the legs of the LÖVET table so it would fit into a car and avoid damage during transit. After this discovery, flat packs and self-assembly become part of the IKEA concept.
Thousands of people queued for the opening of the 31,000 square metres flagship store, IKEA Kungens Kurva. The store had a circular design, inspired by New York’s Guggenheim Museum. The store’s success led to the opening of a self-serve warehouse – an important part of the IKEA concept was born. Additionally, Accenten was opened, where customers bought quality cooking items at a low price.
Another IKEA classic was born, the comfortable armchair POEM made of laminated wood, which later evolved into POÄNG.
IKEA first introduced the iconic POÄNG armchair forty years ago. Yet this icon of Scandinavian design was actually the creation of Japanese designer Noboru Nakamura. Mr Nakamura graduated from industrial high school in Sapporo back in 1931 and has worked both as designer and furniture manufacturer.
IKEA expanded dramatically into new markets such as the USA, Italy, France and the UK. More IKEA classics arrive such as LACK and MOMENT. IKEA began to transform into the modern IKEA we know today.
IKEA designed a series of high-quality furnishings using some well-loved materials – birch wood, leather and cretonne. The range had everything you would expect of high-quality classics except the high price tag. Today, STOCKHOLM is a winner of the Excellent Swedish Design award.
The unique Big Thank You event on 9 October 1999 was a millennium reward for the many co-workers within the IKEA Group. The sum total of all sales on this special day, about EUR 84.85 million, was divided among all co-workers worldwide. It was a great way to thank hard-working IKEA co-workers for contributing to the company’s ongoing success.
The IKEA Group, in co-operation with UNICEF, initiated a broad community programme in northern India to address the root causes of child labour. The project included 500 villages and benefited more than one million people by providing more than 80,000 children with the opportunity to gain education. Presently, the project covers a range of initiatives, such as providing alternative learning centres, health and nutrition, education, empowering women and forming women’s self-help groups.
More than 12 million children in Africa, Asia and Europe have had access to better schools, teachers and learning materials, following a successful 13-year partnership between the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children and UNICEF. Thanks to the support of IKEA co-workers and customers, IKEA donated EUR 88 million towards children’s educational projects.
IKEA launched its own food labels covering about 30 percent of the 150 products in its food range. The range introduced high-quality food products based on Swedish recipes and traditions, at low prices. The products have an IKEA label, are sold in the Swedish Food Market area in IKEA stores and are also served in the IKEA Restaurant & Café.
The IKEA Group and WWF started co-operating on projects aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases generated by IKEA operations. The agreement emphasised on improving energy efficiency, using renewable energy at IKEA suppliers, and developing sustainable customer transportation to and from IKEA stores.