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Who are IKEA’s Competitors?

By Jeff Frank

IKEA revolutionized the home furnishings industry.

Before IKEA the furniture and home furnishings industry had always been composed exclusively of small and mid-size manufacturers and retailers.

IKEA was the first company to unify manufacturing, distribution and retailing on a global scale.

IKEA’s innovations were so radical that they completely disrupted traditional business models.

Some of these innovations included:

  • Redefining home furnishings as a “lifestyle” instead of individual products. This lifestyle approach expanded the product mix into both furniture and non-furniture items.
  • IKEA was the first to design, produce and market products based on a unified model that combined form, function, cost, marketing and materials.
  • The basic modern designs were simple and inexpensive. IKEA expanded these design principles into many different categories of home products.

IKEA recognized that product design could address and resolve systemic inefficiencies that had become ingrained into furniture manufacturing and distribution over the previous century.

For example:

  • IKEA recognized that the most efficient worldwide manufacturing sites were far removed from the biggest retail market distribution locations.
  • Furniture was a bulky product that could not be shipped efficiently over long distances.
  • The use of low cost plastics and engineered wood products for furniture had been shunned by the majority of consumers due to a general perception of unacceptably inferior quality.

IKEA furniture has a very simple but distinctive style. That styling is highly dependent on the requirement that it must be capable of being packed into flat rectangular boxes for inexpensive shipment worldwide.

To overcome the stigma of low cost materials IKEA did something else that was revolutionary at the time.

  • They introduced floor displays that clearly described and highlighted the benefits of low cost materials used in their furniture.
  • Previously, furniture retailers had attempted to keep customers as uninformed as possible about the use of plastics and particleboard in cheaper furniture products.

IKEA also introduced product testing to create confidence in the reliability of their inexpensive products and to ensure that the products could survive long distance shipping That was not a common practice in the 1960s.

The universal efficiencies that are built into IKEA’s global manufacturing, distribution and retail marketing systems make the company a formidable market force with no real competition.

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