'Our retail outlets are now even more accessible to people in cities and urban centres' - IKEA

Posted On: 
11th December 2018

IKEA UK and Ireland's Matt Maguire writes about changes to the company's business model to enable it to better serve an increasing number of customers, who are living in cities and densely populated urban areas.

IKEA's Planning Studio in London's Tottenham Court Road

75 years ago IKEA was established as a small, mail-order business in southern Sweden by Ingvar Kamprad.

From humble beginnings, Ingvar’s vision for IKEA was always clear – to provide a wide range of home furnishing products that are affordable to the many people, not just the few. His aim was to help more people live a better life at home.

Since then, IKEA has grown into the world’s largest home furnishing retailer, defining and redefining the home furnishings market with well-designed and affordable products.

Our business model, based on customers visiting our large, often out-of-town, stores, collecting their own furniture and assembling it themselves has given us a solid foundation and more than 30 successful years trading in the UK.

However, retail and the way people live is transforming, with significantly increased digitalisation, new technology and urbanisation. As a result, retailers are faced with many challenges and for IKEA we see that this requires us to be even closer to our customers, particularly in locations where we’re not currently accessible.

This means making our affordable offer even more accessible to people in densely populated areas such as cities and urban centres and we believe this presents us with many new opportunities.

Globally, by 2050, 70% of people will be living in cities and even today, consumers in our biggest cities expect brands to offer them services that reflect the way they live.

Our response is to create a new world of IKEA in city centres, starting in London, where we will bring IKEA closer to the many people with a more convenient and sustainable way to experience the brand.

In the UK, these plans will see us trial and test a number of exciting and different IKEA city formats in London, forging close partnerships with the city’s institutions to deliver this. Many things will be different, but the familiar yellow shirts, customer service and home furnishing expertise will be the same.

In October we opened the first of these new units. The IKEA Planning Studio on Tottenham Court Road sits at the heart of one of London’s busiest shopping districts and offers a personalised service with a focus on planning bedrooms and kitchens. Other units will follow and the leaning we take from these will help us continue our growth in the UK.

We also know that responsible companies are becoming the first choice for many consumers, including paying a meaningful wage, as we do through the real Living Wage and London Living Wage and ensuring that we live within the limits of one planet.

The effects of climate change are already being felt and in urban areas, high population densities highlight the fragility of the natural environment. But cities also provide opportunity to create a more sustainable future for people and in Spring 2019, we will open our leading sustainable store in Greenwich, which will offer a variety of spaces and features to help Londoners live a healthier and more sustainable life at home.

Our Greenwich store will be radical step-change for IKEA as a responsible and sustainable brand and will be an exciting place where people can meet, share, learn and shop, while reflecting our bold commitments to help safeguard the world we all share.

While these developments are important to the future success of our business, today in the UK, we already have 21 large stores and these are important inspirational spaces where our customers can meet, shop and interact with our 11,400 co-workers.

Throughout our history, our best ideas have come from our biggest challenges and we believe this is what makes us different. We’ve never been afraid to test and try new things and we may not always get it right. However we’ve always recognised the need to adapt to ensure we live up to our business vision - to create a better everyday life for the many people.