If you ask someone in the world what the most popular furniture brand is, chances are most of the answers will mention Swedish furniture giant IKEA, even in countries where there is none. IKEA warehouse. Over the past 40 years, IKEA has expanded its presence in the Middle East and significantly increased its audience. But what is their secret?
The famous furniture maker and retailer started with a small shop in the small Swedish town of Älmhult in 1943 owned by 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad, who started his business at his uncle’s kitchen table selling fountain pens, encyclopedias, table runners, udder balm, reinforced socks for five years, before making a profit that helped him expand his business to include furniture that he sold mainly by mail order.
The name of IKEA, acronym of the name of the founder Ingvar Kamprad, and the name of the family farm where he was born Elmtaryd, and finally his hometown of Agunnaryd in the south of the country.
For decades, IKEA’s success has been attributed to the smart strategies followed by its executives to be a provider of a full furniture shopping experience and not just a typical furniture store, which helped develop the name of the brand over the years.
IKEA not only offers an endless number of high-quality modern and practical furniture, but also gives customers the opportunity to purchase individual pieces and mix and match furniture that meets their own needs and styles.
In addition, IKEA tailor-made services by market and region show a very careful approach to distribution and marketing, all based on in-depth studies that help to understand each market and its unique needs. For example, customers in most countries in the Middle East, especially the GCC, have for decades been offered the option of paying a little more money for the delivery and assembly of parts, which is a less popular option for customers in Europe or North America.
Over the past few years, IKEA has clearly updated its game on social media, using all platforms to market its products and reach as many people as possible. Taking it a step further, IKEA has also used high-tech tools to encourage customers to decorate their homes with IKEA products, offering AR and VR applications to help customers imagine their spaces with the new rooms.
The first IKEA store in the region opened in 1983 in Saudi Arabia, which now houses six different stores. In 1991, the UAE had its first branch and now has three in total, one of which is considered the largest in the region, in addition to the leading distribution center in the Middle East. Kuwait comes in third place with 2 stores from 1984, while Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco each have a single store.
The brand’s franchise in the Middle East is operated in cooperation with the Al-Sulaiman, Al-Homaizi and Al-Futtaim groups.
By building IKEA stores, the Nordic brand has made every effort to stand out in a highly competitive world, which is why it is known as a supplier with great experience; including fun shopping, friendly service and a solid product.
In most countries in the region, IKEA includes a huge showroom in addition to a space for children, making it a welcoming place for families. In addition, the restaurant which offers Nordic dishes not found in many other places in the Middle East makes it an attraction for people looking for a place to hang out while shopping around the store; which ends up buying a few unforeseen products, maintaining the sales and popularity of the brand.
As more and more countries in the Middle East prepare to welcome IKEA stores, like Oman, it makes sense to wonder whether the brand will remain as popular over the next decades and whether or not there will be competitors. Arabs soon.