Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Ikea: Company began in 1943 selling nylons and pens

Ikea gets its distinctive name from the initials of its founder, Ingvar Kamprad, who was born in Sweden in 1926 and founded his business enterprise in 1943.

The title is an acronym comprising the I and the K followed by those of the farm in which he grew up (Elmtaryd) and his home village (Agunnaryd).

From its humble origins in the woods of southern Sweden, Ikea has now spread to 34 countries around the world, and is run by a Dutch-registered foundation controlled by the Kamprad family.

The first Ikea store, opened by Mr Kamprad using money given to him by his father for passing his exams, sold pens, wallets, picture frames, table runners, watches, jewellery and nylon stockings.

But significantly, it expanded in 1947 to begin selling furniture produced by local Swedish manufacturers.

The first Ikea catalogue was produced in 1951 and in 1953 the furniture showroom opened in Älmhult which, five years later, became the home of the first Ikea store.

Ikea began designing its own furniture in 1955 and, by the early 1960s, Ikea expanded and opened a store in Norway.

During the 1970s, Ikea stores opened in Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Canada, Austria and the Netherlands and there was further global expansion in the 1980s when Ikea opened stores in the USA, France, Italy and the UK.

Growth continued and by 1993, Ikea had 114 stores in 25 countries. By 2000, Ikea was employing 53,000 "co-workers", as its staff are known, across a global network of over 150 stores in 29 countries on four continents.

Today, there are more than 200 Ikea stores worldwide, and Belfast is the 270th store.

Today Mr Kamprad is 81 and notoriously publicity-shy. He is noted for his frugality, his car of choice being an old Volvo.

It is reputed that when he stays in a hotel, if he feels the urge to drink an expensive soda from the mini-bar, he replaces it later with one picked up from a nearby shop at half the price.

Mr Kamprad has put part of his wealth into a charitable foundation called INGKA, which has an estimated net worth of £18bn and which is dedicated to promoting "innovations in architecture and interior design".

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