Flat-pack empire: Five things to know about Ingvar Kamprad and Ikea

The late Ingvar Kamprad's legacy can be seen in the Billy, meatballs and a catalogue nearly as popular as the Bible.

Flat-pack empire: Five things to know about Ingvar Kamprad and Ikea
A shopper walks outside the Ikea store in Kungens Kurva near Stockholm, the furniture giant's largest store in Europe. Photo: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP
Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of furniture giant Ikea, has died at the age of 91. Here are five things to know about the late Swedish entrepreneur and his empire of flat-pack furniture and meatballs:
1. What does Ikea stand for?
Ikea, one of the most ubiquitous acronyms in the business world, stands for Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd.
Elmtaryd is the name of Kamprad's family farm in Småland, a small southern Swedish province known for its thrifty attitude and hard-working people, and Agunnaryd is the town where Kamprad grew up.
Ikea's value has tripled since 2000 and is now worth $18.5 billion (€14.9 billion, 145 billion kronor), according to global brand consultancy Interbrand's 2017 rankings — two spots behind fellow Swedish giant H&M.
2. Trouble with taxes
After founding the company at 17, Kamprad's own wealth grew to an estimated at €37.3 billion ($46 billion, 362 billion kronor) in 2017, according to the Swiss economic magazine Bilan.
Despite his enormous success, Kamprad's modest spending habits bordered on the obsessive and in 1973 he fled Sweden's higher tax structure for Denmark, before seeking even lower taxes in Switzerland.
He returned to Sweden in 2014, paying six million kronor ($760,000, €610,000) in taxes. Most of his wealth was held in other assets.
Last year, the European Commission announced that it had launched an investigation into Ikea's tax deals in the Netherlands.
Ikea insists that it complies fully with tax regulations, saying in a 2017 report: “The tax we pay is an important part of our wider economic and social impact.”
3. Best-selling catalogue
First distributed in 1951, Ikea now sends 250 million copies of its catalogue to more than 50 markets in 30 languages, putting it alongside the Bible as one of the world's most popular books.
The 2018 edition was sent to three million households in Sweden, which has a population of 10 million.
Ikea sparked controversy in 2012 when women and girls were airbrushed out of pictures in its Saudi Arabian catalogue, prompting a strong response from Swedes, who pride themselves on egalitarian policies and a narrow gender gap.
4. Billy, the star bookcase
Ikea's revolutionary self-assembly model was conceived in 1956 after an employee suggested table legs be removed so the package would fit into a car.
Using the same principle, the iconic Billy bookcase comes in a flat pack along with an assembly guide and the necessary tools. Designed by Gillis Lundgren in 1979, tens of millions of Billy bookcases have been bought — and Ikea still sells one every 10 seconds.
5. Meatballs
The food portion of Ikea's empire, which includes in-store restaurants and grocery stores, generated €1.8 billion in sales last year.
The company's trademark item is traditional Swedish meatballs, but it also serves 100 million cups of coffee each year.


Danish Ikea store shelters staff and customers overnight during snowstorm

Heavy snowfall left 31 people looking for a spare cushion at the Aalborg branch of Ikea on Wednesday as they were forced to spend the night at the store.

A file photo at Ikea in Aalborg, where 31 people stayed overnight during a snowstorm on December 1st 2021.
A file photo at Ikea in Aalborg, where 31 people stayed overnight during a snowstorm on December 1st 2021. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Anyone who has found themselves wandering the mazy aisles of an Ikea might be able to empathise with the sense of being lost in the furniture store for a seemingly indefinite time.

Such a feeling was probably more real than usual for six customers and 25 staff members who were forced to spend the night at the furniture giant’s Aalborg branch after being snowed in.

Heavy snow in North Jutland brought traffic to a standstill and halted public transport in parts of the region on Wednesday afternoon, resulting in a snow-in at Ikea.

“This is certainly a new situation for us,” Ikea Aalborg store manager Peter Elmose told local media Nordjyske, which first reported the story.

“It’s certainly not how I thought my day would end when I drove to work this morning,” Elmose added.

The 31 people gathered in the store’s restaurant area and planned to see Christmas television and football to pass the evening, the store’s manager reported to Nordjyske.

“Our kitchen staff have made sure there is hot chocolate, risalamande, pastries, soft drinks, coffee and the odd beer for us in light of the occasion. So we’ll be able to keep warm,” he said.

“We couldn’t just send them outside and lock the door behind them at our 8pm closing time. Absolutely not. So of course they’ll be staying here,” he added.

The temporary guests were given lodging in different departments of the store in view of the Covid-19 situation, Nordjyske writes.

“For us , the most important thing was to take care of each other and that everyone feels safe,” Elmose said.

At least Ikea’s stranded customers and staff had somewhere comfortable to lay their heads.

The same can unlikely be said for around 300 passengers at the city’s airport who had to stay overnight at the terminal.

The airport was forced to stop flights from 2:30pm yesterday amid worsening weather, which also prevented buses from transferring passengers to hotels.

“We have around 300 people in the terminal right now and have been giving out blankets on the assumption they will be staying here tonight,” Aalborg Airport operations manager Kim Bermann told Nordjyske.

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