IKEA is a global company known for its ready-to-assemble DIY furniture. IKEA was the product of diligence, perseverance and innovation of its Swedish founder Ingvar Kamprad. He was born in 1926 in Pjätteryd (now part of Älmhult Municipality, Sweden), and was raised at a farm named Elmtaryd, which is located in a small village called Agunnaryd. Even when he was still young, Kamprad knew that the world of business was meant for him. At the age of five, he started selling matches to neighbors. He found out that he could buy matches in bulk at a very low price, and would sell them in low retail price but he still made a decent profit.
From selling matches, Kamprad eventually began to sell other items that ranged from fish to Christmas decors to seeds. Later on, he also started selling school items like pens and pencils.
In 1943, when Kamprad was 17, his father gave him cash as a reward for doing well in school. He used the money to found IKEA — the name rose from the initials of his name I(ngvar) K(amprad), and the initials of the places where he grew up: E(lmtaryd) and A(gunnaryd).
During the first few years of IKEA, Kamprad started to sell and deliver his merchandise by using milk trucks. By 1947, he began to diversify by adding furniture made by local manufacturers. Soon, IKEA furniture spread its popularity. However, IKEA eventually faced boycotting by other manufacturers because of the furniture’s very low price, forcing Kamprad to design the furniture by his own warehouses.
Kamprad began to introduce the revolutionary ready-to-assemble furniture, also known as the “flat pack” furniture. Thus, this gave birth to the unique IKEA concept of simple, practical and affordable “do-it-yourself” furniture which could be purchased in “flat packs.” Despite being affordable and uncomplicated to build, these flat pack furniture items didn’t sacrifice quality and style — and many people thought that IKEA’s items signaled the advent of the “modernist” furniture.
From then on, IKEA began to expand outside Sweden. In the 1960s the company began opening stores in other Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Denmark. In the 1970s, IKEA started to expand outside Scandinavia, opening its first stores in Germany and Switzerland, and eventually other European countries.
In 1974, IKEA broadened its market beyond continental Europe. In 1974, it opened its first Asian store in Japan, and the following year it unveiled its first Australian shop near Sydney and its first North American branch in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.
It seemed there was no stopping IKEA’s growth. In the 1980s, it expanded further to other countries such as the UK, Italy, France, Spain, Belgium and the United States. When IKEA opened its first Shanghai branch, more than 80,000 shoppers were present. In 2010, the company opened its first Latin American branch in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Germany remains IKEA’s biggest market with 50 stores to date, while the United States comes at a close second with 44 stores so far. The biggest IKEA store is currently found in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi in South Korea, with its floor space measuring 59,000 square miles (or 640,000 square feet).
Today, there are over 300 IKEA locations in 38 countries. Its headquarters are now located in Delft, the Netherlands. Amid the company’s stratospheric success, Kamprad has never borrowed money or issued any stocks.
Kamprad had already stepped down from the board in 2013, and his youngest son had taken over the chairmanship of the company. Despite his resignation and his advanced age, Kamprad still travels a lot around the world to visit IKEA branches. Kamprad is one of the wealthiest people on the planet — a March 2010 issue of Forbes ranked him at 11th place on its list of the world’s richest people. In spite of his envy-worthy wealth, Kamprad still lives simply and frugally — he still stays at cheap hotels that he could find, and still drives his old Volvo.
Like in many other companies, IKEA has had its shares of allegations, namely poor customer service, miserable working conditions and poor environmental practices (especially a highly-publicized scandal regarding the company’s use of formaldehyde in its products during the 1980s). But IKEA seems adept in dodging these issues very well.
IKEA may now be universally known for its smart, economical and highly customizable furniture, but the company has also diversified its products and services from flat-pack houses to retail to food stores.
Most popular IKEA products
Among the most popular IKEA products include:
1. Billy bookcase
The Billy bookcase tops almost every list of IKEA’s most popular products. Its versatility is the number one factor why the Billy bookcase remains one of the most iconic and best-selling IKEA items of all time. According to the New York Times, one unit of Billy bookcase is sold in every 10 seconds!
You can adjust the Billy bookcase’s width and height, or expand it by adding new shelves. There are also optional doors which you can install to the shelves.
2. Poäng chair
A brainchild by Japanese designer Noboru Nakamura, the iconic Poäng chair is stylish yet comfortable — you may even fall asleep by just sitting on it. Despite its affordable price, it doesn’t sacrifice on quality and durability.
About 1.5 million Poäng chairs are sold every year!
Another IKEA favorite, the Malm doubles as a comfy bed and as a storage, for one price — it’s more than what you bargain for. How cool is that?
The Kallax series of shelves and cabinets is highly customizable. You can build the storage as high as you want, or you can place it at the corner of your room. The design is sleek and modern, and the surface is resistant to scratches. An shelf insert with door is also available to stash away things unseen.
The sheepskin rug is soft, cuddle-worthy yet durable — perfect for throwing in front of a fireplace. It is resistant to moisture and dirt but unfortunately, it is not machine-washable.