2017 marks 30 years of IKEA in British homes. For many, the retailer represented more than just affordable, flat-pack furniture; it became part of the national zeitgeist in the 90s and 00s, a piney metaphor for new beginnings in new flats and houses. Let’s look back of the company’s history and successes in a review of their 30 transformative years.
From Humble Beginnings…
1943, IKEA is created by Ingvar Kamprad. In 1948, the company introduces furniture into their product range, developing the product line it became famous for.
Jump forward to 1953, and the company’s first showroom opens. Three years later in 1956, the brand begins selling flat-pack furniture. Two years later in 1958, the store opens a 6,700-square meter furniture store – “the largest… in Scandinavia.” 1963 sees IKEA open its first store outside Sweden, this time in Oslo, Norway. 1968 – the company introduces particleboard, a type of medium density fibreboard that will be familiar to frequenters of the store. The low-cost material becomes a staple building block for the company and is still used today.
Between 1969 and 1979, the company opens stores in Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Canada, Austria and the Netherlands respectively. France and Belgium follow in the early 80s, followed by their expansion into the USA in 1985. It’s in 1986 that Ingvar Kamprad retires from group management of IKEA. It’s only in 1987 that the blue and yellow behemoth finally arrives on British shores.
Finding Success – “Chuck Out The Chintz” – IKEA Becomes Part of A Wider Cultural Movement
IKEA’s blend of simple style, low cost and eccentrically named products was a hit in the UK from the beginning. Former Chief Executive of IKEA UK Peter Høgsted explained why he thought Brits were so fond of the furniture in an interview with the Telegraph in 2006: “We are lucky to have a good range of products that are close to people’s everyday lives. There is a lot of emotional attachment.” Indeed, IKEA found its way into the homes of singles and families alike; many of us in the UK will have, at some point or another, bought and assembled a piece of IKEA furniture, and for many that assembly coincided with a new beginning.
As Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett mentioned in her Guardian column, IKEA has transformed the way the British furnish their homes. Perhaps it did even more. Their infamous “Chuck Out The Chintz” campaign painted Britain as a minimalist, forward-thinking society that was ready for a fresh start. Women, particularly independent women, were at the forefront of this advertisement that (coincidentally?) coincided with “girl power”. Almost 30 years of growth and expansion followed, but what’s next for IKEA?
The Blue and Yellow Juggernaut Rolls On But for How Long?
2016 was another stellar year for IKEA in the UK. The company registered 8.9% growth, with total sales of £1.7 billion. But will the retailer continue its growth? For some, the IKEA is becoming indicative of a period marked by continual movement, instability and angst. Young professionals moving into flats often find themselves confronted with similarly coloured, identikit rooms that feel far from personal. This “beigeification” of life goes hand in hand with the drab reality that many young people may never own their own home. Could IKEA soon find themselves as an icon for generation rent?
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