Flat-pack furniture:

The story of IKEA

by Melvin Wong

Melvin Wong is a PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal. His field of expertise is in transportation and urban behavior. 

Melvin Wong is a PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal. His field of expertise is in transportation and urban behavior. 

Ingvar Kamprad, born 30 March 1926 on a farm called Elmtaryd in the village of Agunnaryd in Sweden was the founder of what we know today as the furniture brand IKEA (from the acronym Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd).

When Ingvar was 17 years old, he started his business, first selling furniture made by local manufacturers. Later, he began his revolutionary innovation of flat-pack form furniture to save on warehouse costs and selling direct to customers to keep prices of his goods low. His philosophy was that anyone should be able to afford high quality, stylish furniture without costing a lot.

Flat pack or ready-to-assemble furniture are simple to assemble and only require basic tools and technical knowledge. These furniture became popular among customers who are budget conscious and want to save money by assembling the products on their own.

Surprisingly, the invention of flat pack furniture was by accident when Ingvar realized his table was too bulky for the delivery car and decided to remove the legs to fit it into the car. From there, his idea took off and soon enough, it started a revolution in the home furnishing industry where the time-consuming and expensive task of assembling furniture moved from salesman to customer.

Ingvar’s business idea grew and spread all over the world, from his first store in Älmhult, Småland in Sweden in 1958 to over 267 stores in 25 countries at the end of 2009. The concept became a huge hit in countries even far away from Ingvar’s hometown including China, Qatar and of course, Canada. Currently IKEA employs over 130,000 people under its parent holding group.

More than 198 million of IKEA’s furniture catalog were printed each year, in 27 different languages, showcasing the current trends in home furnishing for newlyweds, students and fashionable hipsters alike.

Driving to the IKEA and spending the day at the furniture store has become a family activity and a weekend tradition for many families. IKEA not only sells furniture at their stores but they also have a children’s playroom “Småland” (pronounced: small land), and a self-service cafeteria which sells their signature meatballs and other popular swedish cuisine.

From his humble beginnings as a furniture salesman, Ingvar’s innovative flat pack idea grew into a global cultural phenomenon and his sustainable and family orientated business practices led Ingvar to become one of the world’s richest man and one of the biggest philanthropist in the world.

Today, IKEA has become synonymous with cheap, high quality, furniture and is well known all over the world for its furniture stores “IKEA” and Swedish Meatballs. 


References

Burkeman, Oliver. "The Miracle of Älmhult." The Guardian. June 17, 2004. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2004/jun/17/shopping.retail.

"Milestones in Our History." Inter IKEA Group. Accessed May 30, 2016. http://inter.ikea.com/en/about-us/milestones/.

Facts & Figures. Accessed May 30, 2016. http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_GB/about_ikea/facts_and_figures/index.html.

Fredén, Jonas. "Ingvar Kamprad, Founder of IKEA." September 24, 2015. https://sweden.se/business/ingvar-kamprad-founder-of-ikea/.