Before Ikea came along, shopping for furniture was rough. It was a tedious, exhausting, often prohibitively expensive process that required pit stops at multiple retailers (not to mention: significant fees plucked down on movers). Then, all of a sudden, the Swedish brand broke into the zeitgeist—in 2008, the company officially became the largest furniture and home goods store in the planet—and we’ve collectively never looked back. Designing a room these days means little more than playing a game of adult Legos.
But behind the meatballs and minimalist design (complete with picture-book assembly guides), you’ll find a company loaded with secrets. Not the bad kind, mind you—the good, heartwarming, brain-piquing kind. From fascinating ways in which the company has taken over the globe to specific methods that’ll have you saving some serious dough, we’ve rounded up the most under-the-radar secrets herein. And for more fast facts about our favorite companies, check out The Most Admired Company in Every State.
Its founder was incredibly frugal.
Though Ikea’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, was incredibly rich (worth an estimated $3.3 billion), he insisted on living frugally. To save money, he drove inexpensive cars (his last car was worth around $22,000), only shopped for his clothes at flea markets, and flew coach regularly, according to CNBC. And for more wealthy folks who cut corners, meet the 17 A-List Celebs Who (Almost) Always Fly Coach.
The As-Is section is your best bet for great deals.
Before you head to the other sections of the store, be sure to check out the “As-Is” section for discounted prices. In this section, slightly damaged items, display items, and other imperfect products are sold at prices that will make you feel as though you’re stealing them right off the shelves.
There are TaskRabbit workers in certain stores that can assist you in assembly.
Since Ikea bought the popular handyman company, TaskRabbit, they’ve begun offering their services in certain stores for customers who may not want to assemble the furniture on their own. In the store, customers can get an estimate for how much it would cost for TaskRabbit to assemble their products. And for more ways to keep every corner of your life organized, check out The 20 Best Apps for a More Organized Life.
There are certain ideal days and times to shop at Ikea.
According to Ikea employees, the best days to avoid the rush of shoppers is during the week: Monday through Friday. And during those days, you can avoid the crowds by shopping in the morning or early afternoon.
Ikea employees are trained to wait until you come to them.
There’s a reason why Ikea employees aren’t rushing over to sell you goods and dote on your every whim—they are trained not to do so. According to employees, they are specifically trained to only assist customers when the customers come to them for help. This might be the case because this method of customer service is considered a more Scandinavian approach to retail—just leave the customers alone, and when they need you for something, offer your assistance.
Ikea even has local deals.
Before you make the trek to your local Ikea, be sure to check for deals and savings that are unique to that particular store. You can simply do this through your local Ikea’s website.
You can test furniture before you buy it.
That’s right—when you download the Ikea Place app, it allows you to virtually place Ikea furniture in your home to find the perfect fit before you head to the store. Basically, the app uses Apple’s augmented reality technology to scan the rooms in your home using your camera, and then you quickly browse through the selection of furniture and place it in the desired location. It’s the perfect option for décor newbies.
Naps on Ikea furniture are encouraged.
While these naps are only technically permitted in Chinese Ikeas, according to employees, their displays are meant to be used and tested out before consumption. After all, what other way would you be able to test out the furniture you’re set to purchase? The average Chinese consumer, in the past few months, has taken this notion a few steps further by actually napping (and even eating) on the displays.
The books in the showroom are often from the employees’ personal library.
If you’ve ever taken the time to rifle through the collection of books on display in the various bookshelves offered in Ikea stores, you may have noticed the diversity of the books. According to employees, these books are actually contributed by them to make the in-store furniture sets more realistic. So, the next time you’re in an Ikea store, do your best to treat the books with care, and not as though they are disposable goods.
The serial numbers can tell you a lot about the product.
Unlike other stores with a confusing mix of numbers to represent product serial numbers, Ikea uses an efficient system to identify each and every product. As it turns out, certain numbers represent different colors, and each individual furniture category is represented by a vocabulary category. Bookshelves, for instance, are ID’d by different occupations, while bathroom products are ID’d by different types of aquatic bodies (ponds, tributaries, et cetera).
Ikea provides free daycare.
As you are probably aware of, inviting small children into a store like Ikea can be a literal nightmare for everyone—including them. So, to prevent customer headaches and wailing tantrums, Ikea offers free daycare at every Ikea, called Småland. Though there may be a time limit to their stay, depending on the particular Ikea, every potty-trained child is welcome.
Grab a store map to avoid buying more—and to find the shortcuts.
Rather than attempting to navigate the confusing aisles of Ikea on your own, grab a map before you make the first plunge into the home goods section. This way you’ll be well-aware of your desired route—and even the secret passages that aren’t made obvious with a normal map-free jaunt through the store.
They over-stuff bins to make you buy more.
According to Ikea employees, they over-stuff the bins to make it appear as the product quantity is plentiful, and therefore, inexpensive, employing the “bulla bulla” technique. The employees are instructed to always keep these bins full to the brim.
Products are named rather than numbered because the creator was dyslexic.
So, we’ve already learned that the products’ serial numbers are labeled in a unique way—so it would make sense that the actual products are named in a similar fashion, right? While this is indeed true, it was a system created out of necessity for Kamprad, who was dyslexic. The number system that is normally used for products of this scale was not an option for someone who could easily confuse the numbers in his head.
There are more Ikea catalogs printed than Bibles.
As it turns out, the Ikea catalog seems to have surpassed the Bible in popularity. More than 200 million copies are printed per year, Business Insider reports.
They embraced LGBT equality early on.
Before LGBT-friendly commercials began airing on popular networks, Ikea, as a part of their “Dining Room” series, featuring different types of consumers like single parents and empty nesters, sought to bring equality to the shopping experience by featuring the first LGBT-positive commercial in history.
Airing in 1994, this commercial, featuring a gay couple buying furniture, despite only appearing late at night to avoid “family viewers,” still upset many corporations like the American Family Association, who threatened to boycott several Ikea locations in the United States. The commercial even resulted in a bomb threat at the Long Island Ikea location—though it never ended up coming to fruition.
They also sell entire homes.
In a push to sell affordable housing, Kamprad began designing entire homes, called BoKlok, to those families who can’t necessarily afford a new house or an older house with costly repairs. Along with construction firm Skanska, Ikea began constructing these homes, with different kinds of flats designed for each unique set of family situation, in 1996. Though they are currently only available in Europe, they are hoping to one day expand to more needy countries.
Ikea beds may be ideal for conception.
According to an issue of The New Yorker, one in ten Europeans is conceived in an Ikea bed. In case that didn’t rattle you, according to the same survey, the number grows to one in five British person, as every household is estimated to have purchased at least two Ikea mattresses in their lifetime. For them, Ikea is life.
Their food sales rival those of major fast food chains.
Rivaling the sales of fast food giants like Panera Bread and Arby’s, Ikea sells $2 billion worth of its trademark Swedish food every year. In fact, in 2012, the retailer sold more than 150 million of their inimitable meatballs.
Ikea sells the BILLY bookcase every 10 seconds.
Ikea’s most popular product, the BILLY bookcase, was first sketched on the back of a napkin in 1978 by designer Gillis Lundgren. Decades later, the bookcase now belongs to one person in every 100, and one of them is sold approximately every 10 seconds, according to BBC News.
Ikea lowers its prices every year.
Despite yearly inflation, Ikea has been able to lower its prices by two to three percent every year since 2000 due to achievements in efficiency.
Ikea’s largest store is the size of 10 American football fields.
Rightfully so, the largest Ikea store resides in Stockholm and, at 594,167 square feet, is approximately the size of 10 American football fields. It’s such a popular attraction that it’s listed in the Stockholm official visitor’s guide.
Ikea is building its own town.
Though still under construction, the Ikea town, to be built near Olympic Park in London, will feature shops, schools, theaters, a hotel, and, apartments for 6,000 people. Strangely enough, the only town staple left out of the design is an Ikea store.
The owner was only 17 when he launched Ikea.
In 1943, a then-17-year-old Kamprad founded Ikea, first as a mail-order sales business that only sold smaller items, like picture frames. Decades later, he was a business mogul and billionaire.
The name IKEA is actually an acronym.
No, Ikea is not a Swedish word—it’s actually an acronym created by Kamprad, containing the initials of his name (Ingvar Kamprad), the farm he grew up on (Elmtaryd), and the town in which the farm resided in (Agunnaryd, Sweden). And for more insight into how certain brands got their names, Here’s Where These Famous Companies Got Their Famous Names.
Ikea consumes a significant chunk of the world’s wood.
According to Business Insider, Ikea uses around one percent of the world’s commercial supply of wood.
The characters on Friends loved Ikea.
If you’re familiar with the hilarious but relatable scene from Friends when Ross was attempting to move a large couch up the stairs, then you understand how pivotal the gang’s furniture was as a plot point on the show. So, it should come as no surprise that Ikea was mentioned in three episodes of the show, beginning with “The One With All the Poker.”
Each Ikea store is creatively redesigned for the country it’s in.
Depending on the location of every Ikea store, the chain does its best to keep the country’s culture in mind when creating the test rooms. According to Fortune, “Displays in Sendai, Japan, and Amsterdam could feature the same beds and cabinets, for example. But the Japanese version might incorporate tatami mats, and the Dutch room will have slanted ceilings, reflecting the local architecture. Beds in the U.S., meanwhile are covered with pillows.”
Nearly all of the Billy bookcases are made in one village in Sweden.
That’s right—the most popular Ikea product is made in the small village of Kattilstorp, Sweden, where only nearly all if its 400 inhabits play a part in the production of these bookcases.
There is an Ikea hotel.
If you’d like to make your Ikea experience last (without the company of hundreds of other shoppers), a stay at the Ikea Hotell in Älmhult, Sweden will satisfy your cravings for Scandinavian future without the assembly time. And for more of the world’s most amazing hotels, check out these 20 Hotels So Outrageous You Won’t Believe They’re Real.
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