IKEA is one of the most recognizable retailers in the world. From its cheap yet stylish furnishings to its delicious cafeteria food, there’s a lot to love. Well, except for the frustrating, wordless instruction manuals.
We’ve all heard about the things you should buy at IKEA as well as the handful of items to avoid. Whether you know it or not, chances are you’ve sat in a Poäng chair or rested a drink on a Lack side table. Yet furniture is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to discussing the company. It’s one of the biggest retailers in the world, but there’s a lot more to IKEA than affordable furniture. Here are 15 secret things you didn’t know about IKEA.
15. It has more items than you could ever need
If you’ve wandered the labyrinth that is an IKEA store, you know it’s stocked floor to ceiling with home goods. If you’ve shopped in person, you’ve viewed only a fraction of what IKEA sells. Between the store and the catalog, it has 9,500 products for sale.
Next: That’s a lot of money
14. IKEA’s success has made the founder a rich man
Founder Ingvar Kamprad is one of the wealthiest people in the world. He has an estimated net worth of more than $50 billion and ranks No. 11 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Not bad for a guy who started his business by selling small items through mail order.
Next: A big hurdle Kamprad overcame on his way to wealth
13. There’s a reason the products have funny names
IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad is dyslexic. When he started his business as a teenager, he had problems remembering and interpreting numeric codes of the products. It was easier for him to remember nouns instead of numbers, so he gave the inventory names instead. That’s why you buy bathroom products named after Swedish bodies of water and bedding named after Norwegian places. Quartz has a breakdown of the naming scheme.
Next: Kamprad could be codenamed Johnny Mnemonic.
12. IKEA stands for something
The letters that make up the word IKEA weren’t chosen because they roll so nicely off the tongue. It’s an acronym and each letter has a special meaning. The letters ‘I’ and ‘K’ are for Ingvar Kamprad, the company’s founder. The letter ‘E’ is for Elmtaryd, the name of the farm Kamprad grew up on, and ‘A’ is for Agunnaryd, the town in Sweden where he was born. Fun fact: Agunnaryd does not have an IKEA store.
Next: You have plenty of space to stretch out.
11. It’s largest stores are huge
Despite being founded in Europe, IKEA’s largest store is half a world away. A store in Gwangmyeong, South Korea (near Seoul), has more than 635,000 square feet of floor space. A location in Stockholm is close to 600,000 square feet. The largest store in the United States is in Burbank, California. It opened in February of 2017 and stands at an impressive 456,000 square feet.
Next: Happy holidays
10. Employees get awesome holiday presents
Around the holidays, it pays to be an IKEA employee. According to Mental Floss, employees say bikes, Rokus, and plane tickets have all been part of the holiday gift package at one time or another.
Next: Chic products for everyone, and we mean everyone.
9. The store is great, even for non-humans
Obviously, you can get all the affordable furniture you can handle at IKEA. But the store also has something for the family pet. The store’s pet products are just like everything it sells: Stylish, affordable, and versatile.
Next: Some dark history
8. The founder has Nazi ties
Ingvar Kamprad admitted in 1994 to having ties to pro-Nazi and socialist political parties in the 1940s and 1950s. He denied being a formal member and called the dalliance a mistake. Years later, however, more evidence surfaced showing Kamprad may have been more involved than he let on. It’s not a good look for him or IKEA, but it apparently hasn’t hurt the bottom line. For the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2017, the company had nearly $3 billion in profits. As we are about to see, it’s hardly the first stain on IKEA’s reputation.
Next: From one dark secret to another
7. Slave labor helped IKEA grow
As we just saw in item No. 8, pro-Nazi ties haven’t hampered IKEA’s success. The same is true of a scandal involving the use of slave labor. In 2012, an audit found political and criminal prisoners in East Germany produced IKEA products without compensation from the 1960s through the 1980s. The company funded the audit and released the findings, which is good. That it knowingly used forced labor to turn a profit? That’s bad.
Next: Another lowlight
6. Shifty accounting practices draw ire
First, it was Nazi ties. Then it was the use of slave labor. More recently, tax evasion has been the blemish on IKEA’s reputation. A complex corporate structure, with a number related companies, is partly to blame. To avoid taxes, the company would funnel money through a sister company in the Netherlands, then move that money to tax havens elsewhere in Europe. The numbers are staggering, but it boils down to IKEA avoided paying more than 1 billion euros in European taxes over the years.
Next: Food for thought
5. It makes a ton of money from food sales
If IKEA sold only food, it would still be one of the largest retailers in the world. From Sept. 1, 2016, to Aug. 31, 2017, the company recorded roughly $2.1 billion in food sales. That’s a lot of Swedish meatballs and cinnamon buns.
Next: Bed and breakfast
4. The IKEA version of a bed and breakfast
One of the favorite pastimes of Chinese IKEA shoppers is napping in the store. Beds and sofas are fair game, and it’s first come, first served. Sleeping in the store was welcomed at first, but now there is some pushback from certain stores. Getting rid of sleeping shoppers hasn’t been easy. And since it’s a short stroll from the bedding department to the cafe, it’s kind of like the IKEA version of a bed and breakfast.
Next: Calling all woodchucks.
3. IKEA consumes a lot of wood
In 2015, IKEA used 16.1 cubic meters of wood to its hardwood and particle board products, roughly 21 million cubic yards. It used 17.8 million cubic yards of wood in 2012, or 1% of all the world’s lumber at that time. Mother Earth fans can rest a little easier knowing the company is committed to getting 100% of its woods from sustainable sources by 2020.
Next: Another step toward being Earth-friendly for IKEA.
2. A leader in LED lighting
By September of 2015, all of IKEA’s lighting products were LED-based. LED (light emitting diode) lights use less energy and last longer, so they use less energy and produce less waste. For the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2017, IKEA sold 85 million LED bulbs. It claims if every one of those LED bulbs replaced incandescent bulbs, it would save enough energy to power 750,000 households for a year.
Next: Girl power
1. Women play a major role in the company
More than half of the 149,000 worldwide employees are women, according to IKEA’s 2017 fiscal year report. At the managerial level, 49% are women. The number of total employees is set to rise as the store has plans to open stores in Vietnam, the Philippines, Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico in the near future, according to Bloomberg.
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