Saturday, March 26, 2011


Some companies succeed because they help define their times. IKEA succeeds by going against them. Our era is defined by well produced trash. Junk food shows great uniformity and quality control. Reality TV shows have extremely high production values. By contrast, IKEA stands for good ideas badly executed.

Sample rooms throughout the store look perfect. Once you walk in, something is amiss. The prints on the walls tear easily. The mattresses are too hard like stacks of papers or too soft because they're nearly hollow. The floors are made of brown plastic, and they look it. Low grade laminates can't pull off the wooden look. The shelved Swedish books are uniformly small, so as not to strain the particle board. Lamps look great, but the displays start to fall apart in the store right away. The store is a series of movie sets.

With IKEA your home will look fine, but it won't be comfortable. Sit in one of their chairs. You can feel the cardboard box it came in. Everything is designed for shipping. "Ergonomics" is apparently, a dirty word. Knife handles are dangerously skimpy. Nothing feels quite right.

The most puzzling thing about IKEA is that they try too hard to be Swedish. Their furniture is Danish Modern. For tax purposes, headquarters has long been in the Netherlands. Still, they persist. Arrogant, highly paid Swedish executives occasionally walk the floors with an inflated sense of their own importance. The business model was set up long ago, and it's already going on without them. They are extras on the set, providing background noise and color by walking around and speaking Swedish. The books that line every shelf are as out of place as the executives. They were printed in Sweden, far in terms of geography and the hellish conditions that define contract manufacturers.

IKEA will end in one of two ways. A trend towards quality could drive the company out of business. If the cost cutting trend continues, someone will figure out that Swedish trappings are unnecessary for selling furniture historically associated with Denmark. Less visible, lower paid management from somewhere else will take over. The stores will become space efficient warehouses instead of the pleasant movie set collections we have today. Trivia buffs will occasionally point out the stores that used to be IKEA.

1 comment:

  1. IKEA offers a range of furniture qualities. Although none of it is high end, there is quite a bit there that is reasonably well-made. Basically, they design their furniture to give people on a budget some options. It's a good place to go when you are just starting out and a good place for those with families. I have bought some things at IKEA that turned out to be junk, but I probably should have looked a little harder when I was shopping. I have had a number of things though that have really stood the test of time. My black leather couch lasted for 15 years, despite the best efforts of my three sons to be very hard on it. I would probably still have it today, had a certain puppy not decided it would be a good idea to eat our couch!!!