IKEA is undoubtedly the most popular — and successful — furniture company in the world. It has made its name from selling low cost quality furniture with clever names to the masses. But there are a lot of shocking facts many of us don’t know about this furniture behemoth. We know that the stores tend to be massive — but did you know that at least one of their stores is over a half million square feet? However, for such a family friendly company, IKEA has a bit of a checkered past — they used forced labor back in the ‘70s and ’80, and the founder, Ingvar Kamprad, has Nazi ties. IKEA is a popular seller of food as well — their annual sales in that arena top 2 billion. Ever wondered about those odd furniture and product names? That’s due to the founder’s struggles with dyslexia, which is why the products are so named to make it easier for him to read. IKEA was one of the first stores to feature a gay couple in one of its national ads when it was taboo and controversial to do so. They’re also one of the largest wood consumers in the world. If your interest is piqued, keep reading to find out 15 shocking facts about IKEA.
15. Their largest store is over a half million square feet
We all know that Ikea stores are gigantic, and you can often find yourself getting lost in these behemoth of stores. But did you know how big the largest Ikea store really is? The largest store in South Korea is 640,000 square feet — an incredible number. Their store in Goyang, however, is even larger. It makes sense to have such a large store when selling big ticket items such as entertainment centers and other large pieces of furniture, but this is truly impressive. Ikea intends to open even more massive stores in South Korea by the time 2020 arrives — four in the Seoul metropolitan area and two more throughout the country.
14. They once used forced labor
Ikea may seem like a relatively light hearted place, but it definitely has a checkered past. Did you know that the company used forced labor to make its products — and not that long ago? Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the company was really hitting its stride, they worked with partners who used East German political prisoners to make their furniture. This, of course, helped keep the manufacturing costs low and the prices cheap, which of course benefitted the company. The company was forced to admit to this — and apologize — in 2012 when this came to light.
13. They sale billions of dollars worth of food
Not only is Ikea an insanely successful furniture store, they’re not too shabby on the food side as well. Their annual sales of food is over $2 billion dollars. In fact, the success of their food operations mirrors actual food companies such as Arby’s or Panera. Back in 2012, they even sold 150 million of their famous meatballs. In fact, data showed that 30 percent of Ikea customers were coming to Ikea not for their inexpensive furniture — but for the food. Ikea may expand their food business into cafes in city centers. This is pretty impressive for an already successful furniture store.
12. Products got their names due to the CEO’s dyslexia
Ever wondered why Ikea has those funny product names? Names that seem to not even make sense in the Swedish language? Well, it all stems from the fact that IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, has dyslexia, making it difficult for him to discern the order of numbers in product codes. To solve this, products are named by a team of designated product namers. They make use of a Swedish word database for their products. They use names — for example, the Billy bookcase is named after an employee named Billy. Expedit means shopkeeper. Applaro is an island in the Stockholm archipelago. The list goes on.
11. They aired the first major TV ad featuring a gay couple
Back when it was considered super taboo to do so, IKEA aired a national television ad featuring a gay couple. This was back in 1994, when portraying anything other than heterosexual couples in ads was odd or controversial. The ad ran in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. However, it was aired only after 10 p.m., because it was considered too shocking to air an ad featuring a gay couple during “family hour.” Thankfully things have now changed, but back then this was an incredibly forward thinking move on behalf of the furniture behemoth. Of course, the store was called on to be boycotted by religious groups, but this did not do much to quell sales for the popular store.
10. They’re the 3rd largest consumer of wood — in the world
It’s not very surprising that Ikea uses a lot of wood — just take a look at the composition of their furniture. What is shocking is just how much wood they use. In fact, IKEA is the third largest consumer of wood only after companies like Lowe’s and Home Depot. And how much is that? 1% of the planet’s wood every year. That’s a whole lot of trees to supply the furniture in its hundreds of stores around the world. In fact, the company has hired a subsidiary company to produce its furniture that is wood based. It truly is a staggering amount.
9. IKEA is a creative acronym
Curious about where the name comes from? Well, IKEA is a creatively named acronym . It stands for Ingvar Kamprad, the first two letters of the founders name. And then Elmtaryd, which is the farm where he grew up. And finally, Agunnaryd, the founder’s hometown in Sweden. It makes sense that the store’s name is so personal to the founder, as he developed IKEA in Sweden when he was still a kid, selling matches for a profit in his native country. The story of IKEA is essentially Kamprad’s story, and the country he’s from played a large part in the store’s success.
8. The billionaire owner is a money saver
Despite being one of the wealthiest people on the planet — he’s worth over $40 billion dollars — Ingvar Kamprad lives a pretty modest lifestyle. His home in Sweden isn’t as lavish as you would think. Also, he’s known to fly economy, and stay in low cost hotels when traveling. He even allegedly replaces mini bar bottles with cheaper ones. He also was reportedly not allowed to enter a gala when, instead of using his car, he travelled to the venue using the public bus. Now that is economical. Also, given that IKEA touts its products as affordable and low cost, it’s not very surprising that the owner lives the message his successful store conveys.
7. They sell entire houses
We all should have known that one day it would come to this, given the relative simplicity of building their furniture. IKEA now sells entire homes that you can feasibly put together yourself. Right now, they’re only available in parts of Europe, but who knows what the future holds. The price is staggeringly inexpensive for a tiny home — only $86,000. Oregon firm Ideabox partnered with IKEA to design the homes. The homes are of course Swedish themed, and its focus is on furniture and products that save space. It is also an eco friendly space, something that appeals to lots of tiny home owners.
6. One in 10 Europeans are conceived on IKEA beds
Here’s a weird but true statistic — 1 in 10 Europeans were conceived on the fluffy sheets of IKEA beds. Given IKEA’s omni presence in Europe, and the popularity of their products, it shouldn’t be that surprising, but its nevertheless a pretty shocking fact. In general IKEA has brought the focus to its beds — they intend to offer pop up breakfast in bed cafes in London. Diners will be offered a breakfast of traditional Scandinavian fair. Perhaps this will distract consumers from the fact that many of them — and their children — have gotten their start in one of these very same beds.
5. Their catalogs are printed more than the Bible
IKEA catalogs are as popular as the stores themselves — perhaps even more so. How popular? Every years, loads of copies are printed — more than the Bible. 208 million copies of the catalog were printed back in 2013, which was double the number of Bibles printed. The catalog has been around since 1951, and it’s the bulk of IKEA’s marketing budget — almost 70 percent of it, given that the popular store really doesn’t need to market much. There are over 60 versions for 43 countries published in dozens of languages. The catalogs are produced in detail — in fact, it takes nearly a year for the company to complete their famous catalogs.
4. Its founder had Nazi ties
It seems like no big company is able to escape being touched by the shadows of the past, and IKEA is no exception. Another aspect of IKEA’s checkered past comes from the founder himself. Back in 1988, Kamprad admitted to having ties to the Swedish fascist political activist Per Engdahl. In fact, he was a member of the New Swedish Movement from 1942 to 1945. One Swedish journalist uncovered, through the help of the Swedish intelligence, even deeper ties between Kampard and the New Swedish Movement. Though Kamprad has denounced his former ties, the findings were pretty damning, and it presents a darker side to the family friendly furniture giant.
3. There is an Ikea town
Believe it or not, there is an IKEA town. IKEA has a real estate arm that put together a town in East London. The town will of course be owned by IKEA, who will act as a sort of landlord. It is called Strand East, built in the model of a European town. The company purchased 1.1 millions square feet of land for the project. It is located near High Street, Stratford and Three Mills Island. Over 1,000 homes and 58,000 square meters of workspace is used, along with a hotel that has 350 rooms. Strand East is something that perhaps only a company like IKEA could pull off.
2. It has sold over 11 billion Swedish meatballs
We know how popular IKEA’s food sales are — but it is stunning how popular the meatballs are. Did you know that IKEA has sold more than 11 billions Swedish meatballs since 1960? And that is just in the U.K. As soon as IKEA opened in the US over 30 years ago, the meatballs became just as popular. In fact, a lot of people come to IKEA just to munch on the meatballs that IKEA provides. The meatballs are so popular that IKEA has even made vegan versions of the dish. These will bring in a whole new clientele and make the dish even more popular.
1. Ikea sells a Billy bookshelf every 10 seconds
Most of us have probably had a Billy bookshelf — or at least been around one — they’re so popular, and I do mean that literally. The IKEA Billy bookshelves are so popular that one sells every 10 seconds. By the time it takes you to read this section, 6 to 12 of the bookcases would have been sold somewhere in the world. The bookcase was designed by an IKEA designer by the name of Gillis Lundgren back in 1978. He sketched the design onto the back of a napkin. There are now over 60 million of these bookshelves in homes and offices all over the world.
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