The brilliant idea from which the largest furniture empire in the world will grow comes from a simple reason: the car is too small. It is 1955. The later designer Gillis Lundgren is supposed to pick up a table for Ikea, a small trading company from the Swedish province, in a furniture factory. But the prototype just doesn’t fit in the car: not in the back seat, not in the trunk. Then Lundgren has an idea. He quickly removes the legs and packs them under the table top. Is more manageable.
And his boss? From this he creates a completely new business model: the furniture kit.
This boss was called Ingvar Kamprad: Ikea founder and the man who revolutionized living. Every day, millions of people today take kits from Ikea shelves, load them into the car and screw them together at home, with too small Allen keys that fall out of their hands forever. This is how Ingvar Kamprad taught the world.
At first he just wants to make money. Kamprad, born in 1926, grandson of poor emigrants from Thuringia, grew up on the Elmtaryd farm in the village of Agunnaryd. In Småland, the southern Swedish province, where many stories by Astrid Lindgren also play.
Kamprad is five years old when he starts doing business, buys matches in large packs – and sells them in small packs. First to your own grandmother, then to your neighbors. Soon he expanded the range to include self-fished fish and cranberries picked by himself. This is followed by vegetable seeds and tinsel for the Christmas tree, then pencils. What farmers need.
Kamprad is learning carpentry. But in the soul he is a shopkeeper. “Acting was in my blood”, he will write decades later in the book “The Secret of Ikea”. “Selling became a kind of fixed idea.” At 17, he founded his company in 1943: Ikea – that stands for Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd at Agunnaryd.
Delivery by bike
In the beginning, Ikea was a dealer for everything: lighters, files, nylon stockings. The goods are Kamprad schnuppe. However, he clearly defined his unique selling point: cheaper than the competition. “I could never understand why socks that cost 1 crown to manufacture should cost 10 crowns in the store,” he says later. Ikea is cheaper – also because Kamprad often initially delivers the odds and ends personally by bike.
In 1948 he added furniture to the range. Not because of his own carpentry training. It’s because he smells like a business. It is post-war and the Swedish government has launched large programs to build new homes.