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(established 1943)

This furniture and furnishings company was founded in Sweden by Ingvar Kamprad (b. 1926). In the late 1990s it had almost 130 stores in 30 countries worldwide. The IKEA mail order catalogue, which in 1997 was issued in 39 editions in 31 countries in 17 languages, has become a powerful vehicle for attracting potential customers for the company's products, many of which are laid out in enticing room settings. IKEA's philosophy was encapsulated within its marketing strategy maxim ‘We shall offer a wide range of home furnishing items of good design and function, at prices so low that the majority of people an afford to buy them.’The origins of the company lay in Kamprad's entrepreneurial activities as a wholesale buyer and seller of a wide range of everyday commodities to neighbours in his farming community. The name IKEA was launched in 1943, deriving from the initials of Kamprad's name, town, and region. By 1950 the company had moved into furniture retailing, an area of corporate activity which assumed an increasingly dominant role. Even at this early stage IKEA furniture relied on qualities of Swedish heritage characterized by a use of natural materials, humanizing functionalism, and clarity of form. The first full‐blown IKEA catalogue was issued in 1951, the first furniture showroom opening in Almhult, Sweden, two years later. In 1955 the company began designing its own furniture, with the introduction in 1956 of its self‐assembly flat‐pack range—an important ingredient of popular success. The first IKEA store opened in Almhult in 1958. Another important aspect of the company's succesful retailing strategy was marked by the addition of a restaurant in 1959, making the shopping experience more relaxing for those coming from further afield. Subsequently, the provision of children's play areas also became a commonplace feature imitated by other companies. The 1960s marked a steady expansion with the introduction of a second IKEA store in Oslo, Norway, in 1963 and the introduction of a self‐service open warehouse system at IKEA, Stockholm, which opened to huge crowds in 1965. In order to enhance design standards in 1975 the company hired an outside consultant, Niels Gammelgaard, a Dane. He produced a number of designs for the company and in the 1980s established Studio Copenhagen as an external design supplier. It was also in the 1980s that IKEA's corporate identity was radically updated by the Hans Brindfors advertising agency. The company's expansion gathered pace in the 1970s and 1980s: in 1973 the first store outside Scandinavia opened in Switzerland and in the following decade new outlets included Saudi Arabia (1983), the USA (1985), the UK (1987); in the 1990s new locations included Hungary and Poland (1990), the Czech Republic (1991), and Slovakia (1992).

The range of products is overseen by IKEA of Sweden with up to twenty designers employed on a full‐time basis, with a further 100 designers, mainly Swedish, working around the globe. Although the products are generally characterized by a sense of value for money blended with practicality and style, there have been isolated attempts to present a more progressive aesthetic, most notably the PS (Postscript) Collection of 40 pieces designed by nineteen Scandinavian designers, which was launched at the Milan Furniture Fair of 1995. However, the collection was not designed for mass production, was only shown in selected stores, and thus did not fit in with the wider corporate philosophy of affordable products. Another innovative designer product range entitled 365+ was launched in 1997.


Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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