IKEA, the Swedish Starter Pack

IKEA, Sweden’s most famous international export in more ways than one. It is the world’s largest furniture retailer and the first taste may have of Sweden.


Founded in Sweden in 1943 by a then 17 year old (!) Ingvar Kamprad the company is today spread over Europe, Asia, North America, Oceania and Africa with further expansions into India, South America and Africa planned. All together there are currently 389 stores in 48 countries and these stores are not all cookie cutter.

Ikea Stores 2016Ikea Stores as of 2016 (Wikipedia), in blue are countries with IKEA stores, yellow countries with stores planned

IKEA is an acronymn of Ingav Kamprad, Elmtaryd (the farm he grew up on) and Agunnaryd (his hometown). It is well known for having some great prices for smart looking home appliances for every occasion and situation. These designs are usually eco-friendly and simple.

Perhaps even more amazing, these products have a really funky naming convention. I ripped this list from Buzzfeed.

  • Sofas, coffee tables, bookshelves, media storage and doorknobs are named after Swedish places.
  • Beds, wardrobes and hall furniture are named after Norwegian places.
  • Carpets are named after Danish places.
  • Dining tables and chairs are named after Finnish places.
  • Bathroom stuff is named after Swedish lakes and rivers.
  • Kitchen stuff is named after grammatical terms in Swedish.
  • Children’s items are named after mammals, birds, and adjectives in Swedish.
  • Bookcases are named after occupations in Swedish.
  • Kitchens are named after spices, herbs, fish, fruits, and berries.
  • Chairs and decks have Swedish men’s names.
  • And materials and curtains have Swedish women’s names.

Its not just the wittiness to how products are named, the brains behind marketing in this company have made IKEA known for really witty advertisements.

Success and controversy go hand in hand however and this company is not short of controversy. Construction of some IKEA stalls (because every IKEA store is its own building) has led to destruction of cultural sites such as ancient tombs in Nanjing; the nomenclature of products had been attacked by a Danish academic for being culturally imperialist; IKEA Australia was accused in 2012 of bullying.

Then there’s the more hilarious controversies (to me at least, but obviously some people are alot more serious about it), such as the company’s 2009 font change to Verdana which had customers fuming.

There’s also the astounding fact that the headquarters of this Swedish company is actually in Delft, Netherlands. According to Al Jazeera the company moved its headquarters to the Netherlands and registered as a charity to avoid the high taxes in Sweden. Earlier this year, the European Parliament accused the company of avoiding 1 Billion Euros in taxes.

At least the biggest IKEA in the world is still based in Sweden, and rightfully so.

Occupying 51,400 sqm of space, this IKEA is located in Kungens Kurva (King’s Bend. The area got its name September 28, 1946 when King Gustav V’s chauffeur-driven 1939 Cadillac skidded off the road and ended up in a ditch) around 20 km south of Stockholm city within the municipality of Huddinge.

I had wondered if IKEA was received as positively in Sweden as it was over the world. Global franchises that are popular overseas are not always popular at home. There are the really popular ones like MacDonalds in the US and Jollibee in the Philippines, then there are the brands that aren’t liked much at home such as Tiger Beer in Singapore, KFC in the US.

The demand for IKEA products in Sweden is strong. It has a smart look to its products with prices that are much cheaper than the elite level prices at exclusive shops like Nordiska Kompaniet. It seems to be the starter pack for individuals in a country where the next step up is much more expensive.

But people don’t just go to IKEA for their furniture. It probably has some of the cheapest basic foods in any of the stores in any of the cities it is found. In Singapore for example, IKEA sold Nasi Lemak for SGD 1.50 for a time when the average price around the island is SGD 4. The same thing happens with their hotdogs and other food stalls. It’s usually cheaper than other stalls of similar portion and quality

So why does IKEA do it? According to the New York Post, it’s all to make you buy furniture from them – whether its today or another day. But even then, the food is actually good (at least from my experience in Singapore). And the food that is sold there can be used to make some really interesting stuff, not to mention the fact that products like fish are ethically sourced and cheaper than similar fillets from supermarkets.

I may not be a Swede, but all things considered, I’d pick this for a cheap and convenient starter pack too.


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