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World Map showing locations of IKEA stores in 2007.
Green represents countries with stores in operation and blue shows proposed locations.

IKEA is a privately-held, international home products retailer that sells flat pack furniture, accessories, and bathroom and kitchen items in their retail stores around the world. The company, which pioneered flat-pack design furniture at affordable prices, is now the world's largest furniture retailer.

IKEA was founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad in Swedenmarker and it is owned by a Dutchmarker-registered foundation controlled by the Kamprad family. IKEA is an acronym comprising the initials of the founder's name (Ingvar Kamprad), the farm where he grew up (Elmtaryd), and his home parish (Agunnaryd, in Smålandmarker, South Sweden).

INGKA Holding B.V. is the parent company for all IKEA Group companies, including the industrial group Swedwood, which commissions the manufacturing of IKEA furniture coming from any manufacturer worldwide (outsourcing), the sales companies that run IKEA stores, as well as purchasing and supply functions, and IKEA of Sweden, which is responsible for the design and development of products in the IKEA range. INGKA Holding B.V. is wholly owned by Stichting INGKA Foundation, which is a non-profit foundation registered in Leidenmarker in the Netherlandsmarker.

Inter IKEA Systems B.V. in Delftmarker, also in the Netherlands, owns the IKEA concept and trademark, and there is a franchising agreement with every IKEA store in the world. The IKEA Group is the biggest franchisee of Inter IKEA Systems B.V. Inter IKEA Systems B.V. is not owned by INGKA Holding B.V., but by Inter IKEA Holding S.A. registered in Luxembourgmarker, which in turn is part of Inter IKEA Holding registered in the Netherlands Antillesmarker. The ownership of the holding companies has not been disclosed.

General overview

The company which was originated in Småland, Sweden, distributes its products through its retail outlets. As of August 2009, the chain has 301 stores in 37 countries, most of them in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. 2006 saw the opening of 16 new stores. A total of at least 12 openings or relocations are planned for 2009. IKEA is one of the few chains to have locations both in Israelmarker and in other Middle Eastern nations.

In most languages, "IKEA" is pronounced something like , but in English it is , similar to the word "idea." As such, IKEA brought action in the Supreme Court of British Columbia successfully preventing a competitor in Victoriamarker from using the name "Idea." Its Chinese name is " " (yíjiā), which literally means "fit for home" in written Chinese and sounds like the phrase "right now" in Cantonese pronunciation.

The IKEA Website contains about 12,000 products and is the closest representation of the entire IKEA range. There were over 470 million visitors to the IKEA websites in the year from Sep. 2007-Sep. 2008.

IKEA is keen to show leadership in adopting more environmentally friendly measures in its manufacturing processes. In 1990, IKEA adopted The Natural Step framework as the basis for its environmental plan (see "Environmental performance," below).

The IKEA Concept is based on offering a wide range of well designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them. Rather than selling expensive home furnishings that only a few can buy, the IKEA Concept makes it possible to serve the many by providing low-priced products that contribute to helping more people live a better life at home.

The IKEA Concept guides the way IKEA products are designed, manufactured, transported, sold and assembled. All of these factors contribute to transforming the IKEA Concept into a reality.

IKEA stores

The first IKEA store in the world.
The store is located in Älmhult in Sweden, not so far from the place where the founder of IKEA was born.

The first IKEA store was opened in Swedenmarker in 1958. The first stores outside Sweden were opened in Norwaymarker (1963) and Denmarkmarker (1969). The 1970s saw the spread of stores to other parts of Europe, with the first store outside Scandinavia opening in Switzerlandmarker (1973), followed by Germanymarker (1974). During the same decade, stores were opened in other parts of the world, including Japanmarker (1974), Australia and Hong Kongmarker (1975), Canadamarker (1976), and Singaporemarker (1978). Ikea has expanded further in the 1980s, opening stores in such locations as Francemarker (1981), the Canary Islandsmarker (1981), Belgiummarker (1984), the United States of Americamarker (1985), the United Kingdommarker (1987), and Italymarker (1989). Ikea has continued expansion into more countries in the 1990s and 2000s. Germany, with 44 stores, is IKEA's biggest market, followed by the United Statesmarker, with 36. IKEA now has 301 stores in 37 countries. The first IKEA store in Latin America is set to open in early 2010 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republicmarker. However, the company has thus far not shown much of a presence in the developing countries.

In September 2009 it was reported that the largest IKEA branch will open in Abu Dhabimarker.

Store format

Newer IKEA stores are usually very large blue buildings with few windows and yellow accents (the company's colors are also the national colors of Swedenmarker). They are often designed around a "one-way" layout which leads customers along "the long natural way.". This layout is designed to encourage the customer to see the store in its entirety (as opposed to a traditional retail store, which allows a consumer to go right to the section where the goods and services needed are displayed) although there are often shortcuts to other parts of the showroom. The sequence first involves going through furniture showrooms making note of selected items.

Then the customer collects a shopping cart and proceeds to an open-shelf warehouse for smaller items (Market Hall). Then the customer visits the furniture warehouse (Self Serve) where they collect previously noted showroom products in flat pack form. Sometimes they are directed to collect products from an external warehouse on the same site or at a site nearby. Finally they take their products to the cashier's station to make payment.

Newer IKEA stores, like the one in Koblenzmarker, Germanymarker, make more use of glass, both for aesthetic and functional reasons. Skylights are also now common in the Self-serve warehouses. More natural light reduces energy costs, improves worker morale and gives a better impression of the product.

Whilst the original design involved the warehouse on the lower level and the showroom and marketplace on the upper, today most stores globally have the Showroom upstairs with the marketplace and warehouse downstairs. Additionally, some stores are single level. Some stores maintain separate warehouses to allow more stock to be kept on-site at any given time, although this occasionally results in challenges in finding the items, as well as a perception of having to queue in line twice. Single-level stores are found predominantly in areas where the cost of land would be less than the cost of building a 2-level store – examples include the store in Saarlouismarker, Germany and Haparandamarker, Swedenmarker. Some stores also have dual level warehouses and machine controlled silos which allow large quantities of stock to be accessed throughout the selling day.

Most IKEA stores offer an "as-is" area at the end of the warehouse just prior to the cashiers. Returned, damaged and formerly showcased products which are not in new condition or taken out of the IKEA product range are displayed here, and sold with a significant discount, but also with a "no-returns" policy. Most IKEA stores communicate the IKEA policy on environmental issues in the "as-is." In the United Kingdom, this is referred to as "Bargain Corner."

In Hong Kong, where shop space is limited and costly, IKEA has opened three outlets across the city, which are actually part of shopping malls. They are tiny compared to common "large blue box" store design, but are huge by Hong Kong standard. Most of the outlets still have a "one-way" layout. An exception is the newest outlet in Telford Plaza, where the three independent floors can be accessed freely from each. However, following IKEA tradition, the cashiers are only located on the lowest floor.

The vast majority of IKEA stores are located outside of city centres, primarily because of land cost and traffic access. Several smaller store formats have been unsuccessfully tested in the past (the "midi" concept in the early 90s, which was tested in Ottawa and Heerlen with 9,300 m2, or a "boutique" shop in Manhattan). A new format for a full-size, city centre store was introduced with the opening of the Coventry (UK) store in December 2007. This is in response to UK government restrictions blocking retail establishment outside city centres, and the format is expected to be used for future IKEA stores in the UK. The Coventry store has 7 levels and therefore has a flow different from other IKEA stores.

Another feature of many stores are their long opening hours. Many IKEA stores are in operation 24 hours a day with restocking and maintenance being carried out throughout the night. However, public opening hours tend to be much longer than most other retailers, with stores open well into the evening in many countries. In the UK for example, almost all stores are open past 8pm with opening times often around 9-10am. Ikea Croydon has one of the longest opening hours worldwide being open from 10am 12 Midnight Monday to Friday.

Restaurants and food markets

Many stores include restaurants serving traditional Swedish food such as potatoes with Swedish meatballs, cream sauce and lingonberry jam, although there are variations. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia the usual boiled potatoes have been switched to french fries. Besides these Swedish staples, hot dogs and drinks are also sold, the latter for around 5 SEK (approx $1 USD), 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. IKEA stores in Saudi Arabia serve chicken shawarma at the exit instead of the traditional IKEA hot dog.

In many locations the IKEA restaurants open daily before the rest of the store and serve an inexpensive breakfast. In Canada, this breakfast costs $1 and includes eggs, sausage, and home fries. In the United States, the local variation serves scrambled eggs, bacon, country potatoes and choice of Swedish pancakes or french toast sticks. In the Netherlands it costs €1 and consists of a croissant, a small bread roll, butter or margarine, jam, a slice of cheese, a boiled egg, and coffee or tea. In Australia it costs AUD$2.50 and consists of hash browns, bacon, scrambled eggs, a sausage and tomato, with a $2 vegetarian option with baked beans which omits the sausage and bacon. Ikea Canada, for a limited time, serves dim sum alongside its original breakfast menu.

Refills of coffee, tea, and soft drinks are free of charge, even in countries where this is uncommon in other restaurants.

Many stores also have a mini-shop selling Swedish-made, Swedish-style groceries, such as Swedish meatballs, packages of gravy and various Scandinavian cookies and crackers, as well as salmon and salmon roe. IKEA also sells lingonberry jam in a wide array of sizes, including buckets.


Many stores have a play area, named Småland, for children aged 3 to 10 years (may vary). The service is offered completely free of charge. Parents drop off their children at a gate to the playground, and pick them up after they arrive at another entrance. Parents are also given free pagers by the on-site staff; the staff will set off these pagers should a child need his/her parents sooner than expected. The area mostly features things such as slide, seesaws, cartoons, a ball pit, etc. Smålandmarker is also the province in Sweden where Ingvar Kamprad was born (translated from Swedish to English: Små = little (plural) and land = land, "small lands").



Much of IKEA's furniture is designed to be assembled by the consumer rather than being sold pre-assembled. IKEA claims this permits them to 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 a practical point for many of the chain's European customers, where public transport is commonly used; the flat-pack distribution methods allow for easier transport via public transport from the store to a customer's home for assembly.

An IKEA "PUGG" clock.
IKEA contends that it has been a pioneering force in sustainable approaches to mass consumer culture. Kamprad refers to the concept as "democratic design," meaning that the company applies an integrated approach to manufacturing and design (see also environmental design). In response to the explosion of human population and material expectations in the 20th and 21st century, 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 particle board. The intended result is flexible, adaptable home furnishings, scalable both to smaller homes and dwellings as well as large houses.

Not all furniture is stocked at the store level. For example, while a particular color of sofa model may be stocked and can be picked up at the store, another color of the same model that is not available in the store will instead have to be shipped from a warehouse to the customer's home for an additional delivery charge. Unlike with other retail stores, any requests for a model to be shipped from the warehouse to the store for pickup would also incur the same delivery charge to the customer. Delivery charges can easily add another 10% to 25% to the purchase price.

Houses, flats

IKEA has also expanded their product base to include flat-pack houses, in an effort to cut prices involved in a first-time buyer's home. The product, named BoKlok was launched in Sweden in 1996 in a joint venture with Skanska. Now working in the Nordic countries and in UK, sites confirmed in Englandmarker include Londonmarker, Manchestermarker, Leedsmarker, Gatesheadmarker and Liverpoolmarker.

Family Mobile

On 8 August 2008, IKEA UK launched Family Mobile – a virtual mobile phone network, which uses the T-mobile network.


Although IKEA household products and furniture are designed in Sweden, they are largely manufactured in developing countries to keep down costs. With suppliers in 50 countries, roughly 2/3 of purchasing is from Europe with about 1/3 from Asia. A small amount of products are produced in North America. Comparatively little production actually takes place in Sweden, though it still remains the fourth-largest supplier country (behind China, Poland and Italy). China accounts for about 2.5 times as much supply as Sweden. For most of its products, the final assembly is performed by the end-user (consumer).

Product names

IKEA products are identified by single word names. Most of the names are Swedish in origin. Although there are some notable exceptions, most product names are based on a special naming system developed by IKEA in conjunction with Colin Edwards (international naming expert and furniture enthusiast).

  • 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
  • Materials, 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
For example, DUKTIG (meaning: good, well-behaved) is a line of children's toys, OSLOmarker is a name of a bed, BILLY (a Swedish masculine name) is a popular shelf, DINERA (meaning: (to) dine) for tableware, KASSETT (meaning: cassette) for media storage. One range of office furniture is named EFFEKTIV (meaning: efficient), SKÄRPT (meaning: sharp or clever) is a line of kitchen knives.

A notable exception is the IVAR shelving system, which dates back to the early 1970s. This item is named after the item's designer.

Because IKEA is a worldwide company working in several countries with several different languages, sometimes the Nordic naming leads to problems where the word means something completely different to the product. While exotic-sounding names draw attention, e.g., in anglophone countries, a number of them call for a snicker. Notable examples include "Jerker" desk and "Fartfull" workbench.. Also, the most recent new product, Lyckhem (meaning bliss). The products are generally withdrawn, probably after someone pointed at blunders, but not before generating some news. Similar blunders happen with other companies as well.

Company founder Ingvar Kamprad, who is dyslexic, found that naming the furniture with proper names and words, rather than a product code, made the names easier to remember.


Cover of the 2009 edition US Catalogue
IKEA publishes an annual catalogue. First published in Swedish in 1951, the catalogue is now published in 55 editions, in 27 languages for 36 countries, and is considered to be the main marketing tool of the retail giant, consuming 70% of the company's annual marketing budget.

The catalogue is distributed both in stores and by mail. Most of the catalogue is produced by IKEA Communications AB in IKEA's hometown of Älmhultmarker, Sweden where IKEA operates the largest photo studio in northern Europe at 8,000 square metres in size. The catalogue itself is printed on chlorine-free paper of 10-15% post-consumer waste. More copies of the IKEA catalogue are printed each year than the Bible.

According to Canadian broadcaster, CTV, "IKEA's publications have developed an almost cult-like following online. Readers have found all kinds of strange tidbits, including mysterious cat pictures, apparent Mickey Mouse references and weird books wedged into the many shelves that clutter the catalogues."

IKEA Family

In common with some other retailers, IKEA has launched a loyalty card in its stores in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Russia, China, Japan, Switzerland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Hungary, France, Portugal and Spain called "IKEA Family." The distinctive orange card is free of charge and can be used to obtain discounts on a special range of products found in each IKEA store. In particular, it gives 25% off the price of commissioned ranges of IKEA products on presentation of the card. The card also gives discounts on food purchased in the restaurant and the Swedish Food Market. In the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Russia, Japan, UK, Switzerland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Italy and Poland it also entitles the holder to free coffee in the restaurant. In Spain, Hungary and Ireland this offer is only available on working days.

In conjunction with the card, IKEA also publishes and sells a printed quarterly magazine titled IKEA Family Live which supplements the card and catalogue. The magazine is already printed in thirteen languages and an English edition for the United Kingdommarker was launched in February 2007. It is expected to have a subscription of over 500,000.

Corporate structure

Despite its Swedish roots, IKEA is owned and operated by a complicated array of not-for-profit and for-profit corporations.

The IKEA corporate structure is divided into two main parts: operations and franchising. Most of IKEA's operations, including the management of the majority of its stores, the design and manufacture of its furniture, and purchasing and supply functions are overseen by INGKA Holding, a private, for-profit Dutchmarker company. Of the IKEA stores in 36 countries, 235 are run by the INGKA Holding. The remaining 30 stores are run by franchisees outside of the INGKA Holding.

INGKA Holding is not an independent company, but is wholly owned by the Stichting Ingka Foundation, which Kamprad established in 1982 in the Netherlands as a tax-exempt, not-for-profit foundation. The Ingka Foundation is controlled by a five-member executive committee that is chaired by Kamprad and includes his wife and attorney.

While most IKEA stores operate under the direct purview of Ingka Holding and the Ingka Foundation, the IKEA trademark and concept is owned by an entirely separate Dutch company, Inter IKEA Systems. Every IKEA store, including those run by Ingka Holding, pays a franchise fee of 3% of the revenue to Inter IKEA Systems. The ownership of Inter IKEA Systems is exceedingly complicated and, ultimately, uncertain. Inter IKEA Systems is owned by Inter IKEA Holding, a company registered in Luxembourg. Inter IKEA Holding, in turn, belongs to an identically named company in the Netherlands Antillesmarker that is run by a trust company based in Curaçaomarker. The owners of this trust company are unknown (IKEA refuses to identify them) but are assumed to be members of the Kamprad family.

In Australia, IKEA is operated by two companies. Stores located on the East Coast including Queenslandmarker, New South Walesmarker, and Victoriamarker are owned by INGKA Holding. Stores elsewhere in the country including South Australiamarker and Western Australiamarker are owned by Cebas Pty Ltd. Like elsewhere, all stores are operated under a franchise agreement with Inter IKEA Systems.

Non-taxable profit

In 2004, the last year that the INGKA Holding group filed accounts, the company reported profits of €1.4 billion on sales of €12.8 billion, a margin of nearly 11 percent. Because INGKA Holding is owned by the nonprofit INGKA Foundation, none of this profit is taxed. The foundation's nonprofit status also means that the Kamprad family cannot reap these profits directly, but the Kamprads do collect a portion of IKEA sales profits through the franchising relationship between INGKA Holding and Inter IKEA Systems.

Inter IKEA Systems collected €631 million of franchise fees in 2004, but reported pre-tax profits of only €225 million in 2004. One of the major pre-tax expenses that Inter IKEA systems reported was €590 million of “other operating charges.” IKEA has refused to explain these charges, but Inter IKEA Systems appears to make large payments to I.I. Holding, another Luxembourg-registered group that, according to The Economist, “is almost certain to be controlled by the Kamprad family.” I.I. Holding made a profit of €328 million in 2004.

In 2004, the Inter IKEA group of companies and I.I. Holding reported combined profits of €553m and paid €19m in taxes, or approximately 3.5 percent.

The Berne Declaration, a non-profit organization in Switzerlandmarker that promotes corporate responsibility, has formally criticized IKEA for its tax avoidance strategies. In 2007, the Berne Declaration nominated IKEA for one of its Public Eye “awards,” which highlight corporate irresponsibility and are announced during the World Economic Forum in Davosmarker, Switzerland.

Control by Kamprad

Along with helping IKEA make non-taxable profit, IKEA's complicated corporate structure allows Kamprad to maintain tight control over the operations of Ingka Holding, and thus the operation of most IKEA stores. The Ingka Foundation’s five-person executive committee is chaired by Kamprad. It appoints the board of Ingka Holding, approves any changes to Ingka Holding’s bylaws, and has the right to preempt new share issues. If a member of the executive committee quits or dies, the other four members appoint his or her replacement.

In Kamprad's absence the foundation's bylaws include specific provisions requiring it to continue operating the Ingka Holding group and specifying that shares can be sold only to another foundation with the same objectives as the Ingka Foundation.

Charitable giving

The INGKA Foundation is officially dedicated to promoting “innovations in architecture and interior design.” With an estimated net worth of $36 billion, the foundation is unofficially the world’s largest charitable organization, beating out the much better known Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a net worth of approximately $33 billion.

Despite its enormous wealth, the Ingka Foundation does very little charitable giving. Detailed information about its grantmaking is unavailable, as foundations in the Netherlands are not required to publish their records. But IKEA has reported that in 2004-2005, the Ingka Foundation's donations were concentrated on the Lund Institute of Technology in Sweden, and the Lund Institute reported the receipt of $1.7 million grants from the foundation during both of those years. By way of comparison, the Gates Foundation made gifts of more than $1.5 billion in 2005.

Notwithstanding the Ingka Foundation's lack of concerted philanthropic activity, IKEA is involved in several international charitable causes, particularly in partnership with UNICEF. These include:

  • In the wake of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, IKEA Australia agreed to match dollar for dollar co-workers donations and donated all sales of the IKEA Blue Bag to the cause.
  • After the Pakistan earthquake of 2006, IKEA gave 500,000 blankets to the relief effort in the region
  • IKEA has provided furniture for over 100 "bridge schools" in Liberiamarker.
  • In the 2008 Sichuan earthquakemarker in China, IKEA Beijing sold an alligator toy for 40 yuan (US$5.83, €3.70) with all income going to the children in the earthquake struck area

IKEA also supports American Forests to restore forests and reduce pollution.

Links with EducationIn 2008 IKEA was a supporter of the Design Wales Ffres Awards, providing a creative brief for undergraduate design competition.

IKEA Social Initiative

In September 2005 IKEA Social Initiative was formed to manage the company’s social involvements on a global level. IKEA Social Initiative is headed by Marianne Barner.

The main partners to IKEA Social Initiative are UNICEF and Save the Children.

On the 23rd of February 2009 at the ECOSOC event in New Yorkmarker, UNICEF announced that IKEA Social Initiative has become the agency’s largest corporate partner, with total commitments of more than 180 million USD.

Examples of involvements:
  • IKEA through IKEA Social Initiative contribute €1 to UNICEF and Save the Children from each soft toy sold during the holiday seasons, raising a total of €16.7 million so far.
  • IKEA Social Initiative provided soft toys to children in cyclone affected Myanmarmarker.
  • Starting in June 2009, for every Sunnan solar-powered lamp sold in IKEA stores worldwide, IKEA Social Initiative will donate one Sunnan with the help of UNICEF.

Environmental performance

In 1990, IKEA invited Karl-Henrik Robèrt, founder of The Natural Step, to address its board of directors. Robert's system conditions for sustainability provided a strategic approach to improving the company's environmental performance. This led to the development of an Environmental Action Plan, which was adopted in 1992. The plan focused on structural change, allowing IKEA to "maximize the impact of resources invested and reduce the energy necessary to address isolated issues." The environmental measures taken, include the following:

  1. Replacing polyvinylchloride (PVC) in wallpapers, home textiles, shower curtains, lampshades, and furniture—PVC has been eliminated from packaging and is being phased out in electric cables;
  2. minimizing the use of formaldehyde in its products, including textiles;
  3. eliminating acid-curing lacquers;
  4. producing a model of chair (OGLA) made from 100% post-consumer plastic waste;
  5. introducing a series of air-inflatable furniture products into the product line. Such products reduce the use of raw materials for framing and stuffing and reduce transportation weight and volume to about 15% of that of conventional furniture;
  6. reducing the use of chromium for metal surface treatment;
  7. limiting the use of substances such as cadmium, lead, PCB, PCP, and AZO pigments;
  8. using wood from responsibly-managed forests that replant and maintain biological diversity;
  9. using only recyclable materials for flat packaging and "pure" (non-mixed) materials for packaging to assist in recycling.
  10. introducing rental bicycles with trailers for customers in Denmark.

More recently, IKEA has stopped providing plastic bags to customers, but offers reusable bags for sale. The IKEA restaurants also only offer reusable plates, knives, forks, spoons, etc. Toilets in some IKEA restrooms have been outfitted with dual-function flushers. Most stores only offer paper plates and plastic knives, forks, and spoons. IKEA has recycling bins for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), energy saving bulbs, and batteries.In 2001 IKEA was one of the first companies to operate its own cross-border freight trains through several countries in Europe.

In August 2008, IKEA also announced that it had created IKEA GreenTech, a 50 million venture capital fund. Located in Lundmarker (a college town in Sweden), it will invest in 8-10 companies in the coming five years with focus on solar panels, alternative light sources, product materials, energy efficiency, and water saving and purification. The aim is to commercialise green technologies for sale in IKEA stores within 3–4 years.

Community impact

IKEA's goals of sustainability and environmental design in their merchandise have sometimes been at odds with the impact a new IKEA store can have on a community.

  • In September 2004, when IKEA offered a limited number of free $150 vouchers at the opening of a new store in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, three people were crushed to death in a stampede that followed the store's opening.
  • IKEA has demolished historic buildings in at least one case for a parking area. (At the College Park, Maryland, USA, store there is an interactive digital display which tells the history of a tavern which used to exist where the store is currently located.)
  • IKEA was refused planning permission for a future store in the United Kingdommarker in 2004 (to be based in Stockportmarker, Greater Manchestermarker) by the Office of the Deputy Prime Ministermarker. It applied for judicial review but lost in 2005. However, they later received permission to build a store within Greater Manchestermarker a few miles from the originally planned site in Ashton-Under-Lynemarker. An estimated £10,000 was spent on traffic policing, and even more on rerouting traffic from the M60 motorwaymarker around Ashtonmarker.
  • After viewing the 100-foot tall sign of an IKEA under construction near Portland International Airportmarker, Randy Leonard, the city commissioner in charge of sign permits in Portland, Oregonmarker, placed a moratorium on all pending and future sign permits in the area.


Paris Nord 2, Roissy, France
Some criticisms of IKEA:
  • In the 1990s, there were several complaints arising from IKEA's Englishmarker television advertising campaigns:
    • “Stop being so English:” In which a “Swedish psychologist” claims the English are uptight due to their taste in “English” furniture (complaints were dismissed).
    • An advertisement where a management consultant suggests how much more furniture a company could buy if it fired an office worker (complaints were dismissed but IKEA voluntarily withdrew the advert).
    • A campaign under the slogan, "Just pack up, ship out, find a place of your own. And for all your new things, you know where to come. Make a fresh start," got complaints that it was trivializing marriage breakups (complaints were dismissed).
  • IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad was, as a teen, directly involved in the pro-Nazi New Swedish Movement (Nysvenska Rörelsen) until at least 1948, causing tensions when IKEA began opening stores in Israel. Kamprad devotes two chapters to his time in Nysvenska Rörelsen in his book, Leading By Design: The IKEA Story and, in a 1994 letter to IKEA employees, called his affiliation with the organization the "greatest mistake of his life."
  • Former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik has criticized IKEA for not depicting women assembling furniture in its instruction booklets, despite the fact that many sets of instructions do, in fact, show women.
  • In 2004 there was controversy about an Irish law restricting the maximum size of a retail outlet to 6,000 m2. IKEA's plan to build a much larger store in Dublinmarker caused the law to be put up for debate. The law was changed to remove the size limit for retail outlets selling durable goods in designated areas. The Minister for the Environment was criticized for allegedly changing the law to suit one company and other agencies protested the law change as damaging to small businesses while the government defended their decision stating that the move was a positive one for Irish consumers. IKEA Dublin has since opened on 27 July 2009.
  • June 2007: the designated nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party complained about an artist's rendering of IKEA Belfast that included both the Union Flag and the Ulster Banner flag as two of the three flags in front of the store. After being labelled "an upmarket Orange hall" by the party, IKEA assured customers and coworkers that only the Swedish flag would be seen outside the actual store.
  • June 2007: some prospective customers took offense at an email newsletter with questionable advertising copy. To wit, the BRUNKRISSLA bedding notes said, "Brightens up your grad's dorm. Unlike a creepy gothic roommate, who can be a bad influence." Members of the goth subculture took offense at the stereotype.
  • A researcher from the University of Copenhagenmarker discovered that for years, IKEA has named their cheap rugs after Danish places, while the more expensive and luxurious furniture was named after Swedish places. The researcher, Klaus Kjøller, who is well-known for tongue-in-cheek statements, accused IKEA of imperialism.
  • People in Canadamarker became upset with IKEA when a TV station discovered that IKEA charged as much as twice the price in their Canadian stores for the same items sold in their American stores, this despite the Canadian dollar reaching parity with the U.S. dollar.


IKEA caused a minor flap in the graphic design world in 2009 when it changed the font used in its catalog from Ikea Sans to Verdana, expressing a desire to unify its branding between print and web media.

Time magazine and the Associated Press ran articles on the controversy including a brief interview with an IKEA representative, focusing on the opinions of typographers and designers. Design and advertising industry-focused publications such as Business Week joined the fray of online posts. The branding critic blog, Brand New, was one of those using the Verdanagate name. The Australian online daily news site Crikey also published an article on the controversy. The Guardian ran an article asking "Ikea is changing its font to Verdana - causing outrage among typomaniacs. Should the rest of us care? Absolutely."The New York Times said the change to Verdana "is so offensive to many because it seems like a slap at the principles of design by a company that has been hailed for its adherence to them."


IKEA ran a commercial widely thought to be the first commercial featuring a homosexual couple. It aired only once, in 1994. IKEA has run other commercials targeting the gay community as well as a commercial featuring a transgender woman.

IKEA launched a UK wide advertising campaign in September 2007 titled 'Home is the Most Important Place in the World' using estate agent signs with the term 'Not For Sale' written on them as part of the wider campaign. However, after the campaign appeared in the Metro newspaper London the business news website www.mad.co.uk remarked that the IKEA campaign had amazing similarities with the marketing activity of UK home refurbishment company Onis Living who had launched their own Not For Sale advertising campaign 2 years previously and in November 2006 had been awarded the Interbuild 2006 Construction Marketing Award for best campaign under £25,000.

Onis' Not For Sale sign.
A debate ensued between Fraser Patterson, Chief Executive of Onis and Andrew McGuinness, partner at Beattie McGuinness Bungay (BMB), the advertising and PR agency awarded the £12m IKEA account. The essence of the debate was that BMB claimed to be unaware of Onis' campaign as Onis were not an advertising agency. Onis' argument was that they had already been accredited for their Not For Sale campaign and that their advertising could be seen in prominent landmarks throughout London, they were concerned about the impact IKEA's campaign would have on the originality of their own.

After some negotiations BMB and IKEA agreed to provide Onis with a feature page on the IKEA campaign site (www.notgoinganywhere.co.uk) linking through to Onis' site (www.onishome.co.uk), for a period of 1 year. Onis is possibly the only company to have ever been advertised by IKEA in such a fashion. In 2008 Onis Homes limited was placed into voluntary liquidation and the website www.onishome.com closed.

The Intellectual Property and trading rights of Onis Homes Limited were later purchased by new shareholders with the strategy to grow the Onis brand throughout the U.K as a one stop shop home refurbishment franchise using the trading name Onis Living (www.onisliving.co.uk).

IKEA recently paired up with the makers of popular video game The Sims 2 to make a stuff pack called The Sims 2 IKEA Home Stuff. The game features many items that can be found in IKEA stores and was released on June 24, 2008 in North America and June 26, 2008 in Europe. It is the second stuff pack with a major brand, the first being The Sims 2 H&M Fashion Stuff, which are both coincidentally companies of Swedishmarker origin.

IKEA has taken over title sponsorship of Philadelphia's annual Thanksgiving Day parade in 2008, replacing Boscov's, who filed for bankruptcy in August 2008.

In November 2008 a subway train decorated in IKEA style was introduced in Novosibirskmarker, Russiamarker. Four cars were turned into a mobile showroom of the Swedish design. The redesigned train, which features colourful seats and fancy curtains, carried passengers until June 6, 2009.

In Londonmarker, Englandmarker, Oyster cards (the ticket-free system for London Underground) are now given with wallets sponsored by IKEA who also sponsor the tube map.

The Red Osprey in her IKEA livery.
In January 2009, just before the new store opened in Southamptonmarker, Englandmarker, the MV Red Osprey of Red Funnel was re-painted in an entirely yellow and blue livery to celebrate the opening of the new IKEA store in Southampton. This is the first time a Red Funnel ferry has been re-painted out of its own red and white colour scheme. It is expected to stay in these colours for 12 months as part of a deal between Red Funnel and IKEA to provide home delivery services to the Isle of Wightmarker.

Since the stores opening in Dublin on 27 July 2009, Ikea has been rumoured to be the new sponsors of the Dublin GAA Senior Football & Hurling teams for the 2010 season.

In August 2009 Ikea attracted criticism amongst global type aficionados for changing the font it used for its signage from Futura to Verdana.


IKEA was named one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers in 2004 and 2005 by Working Mothers magazine. It ranked 96 in Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2006 and in October 2008, IKEA Canada LP was named one of "Canada's Top 100 Employers" by Mediacorp Canada Inc., and was featured in Maclean's newsmagazine.


  1. Reuters (January 8, 2008) IKEA mulls joint venture with Bosnia furniture maker.
  2. "Ingvar Kamprad and IKEA". Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA, 02163. 1996
  3. Inter IKEA Systems B.V. November 2008
  4. Owens,Heidi (1998) IKEA: A Natural Step Case Study. Oregon Natural Step Network. Retrieved on: April 6, 2008.
  5. Mideast's largest IKEA to open in Abu Dhabi
  6. 'Fartfull' workbench, 'Jerker' desk: Is Ikea hiding a grin?Chicago Sun-Times, August 17, 2004
  7. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/feb/04/shopping.retail
  8. The Economist, May 11, 2006.
  9. www.evb.ch/en/index.cfm
  10. UNICEF's corporate partnerships
  11. International Save the Children Alliance
  12. UNICEF (February 23, 2009) IKEA social initiative adds $48 million to UNICEF's child health programme
  13. Reuters India (February 23, 2009) Ikea gives UNICEF $48 mln to fight India child labor
  14. [1]
  15. [2] - The Font War: Ikea Fans Fume over Verdana. Time, (Aug 28, 2009)
  16. [3] - "Verdanagate," by "Armin" in "Brand New" blog, August 31 2009
  17. [4] - Mel Campbell and Jeremy Wortsman, "The Full Fonty: Why Type Nerds Went Mental Over Ikea," "Crikey," September 1, 2009
  18. Verdana: Ikea's flat-pack font, Simon Garfield, The Guardian, 2 Sept 2009
  19. "Typography Fans Say Ikea Should Stick to Furniture", Edward Rothstein, The New York Times, September 4, 2009
  20. Ikea's tweaked brand identity attracts criticism Communicate magazine, August 2009

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