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How did Swedish IKEA company start?

IKEA, most everyone is familiar with this innovative company but how and where did it begin?

The founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, was born in Småland, in the south of Sweden. He was raised on a farm called Elmtaryd, near the small village of Agunnaryd. Even as a young boy his entrepreneurial skills were showing. He started by selling matches to neighbors when he discovered that matches could be purchased inexpensively in bulk and resold at a lower price but still with a profit. From matches, he expanded to selling fish, Christmas tree decorations, seeds and later ball-point pens and pencils.

In 1943, when Ingvar was 17, his father gave him a gift for succeeding in his studies, he used this to establish his own business. The name IKEA was formed from the founder's initials (I.K.) plus the first letters of Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd, the farm and village where he grew up. In the beginning pens, wallets, picture frames, table runners, watches, jewelry and nylon stockings were sold, any product where there was a need and could be filled at a reduced price.

The first IKEA advertisements appeared in local newspapers in 1945 when the business outgrew individual sales calls, he began advertising in local newspapers and operating a makeshift mail order catalogue. His products were now distributed via the county milk van and delivered to the nearby train station.

Furniture produced by local manufacturers was first introduced into the IKEA product line in 1947, the response was positive and offerings were expanded. In 1951 the first IKEA furniture catalogue was published and with this success the opportunity of becoming a furniture provider on a larger scale became a possibility. Mr. Kamprad now made the decision to discontinue all other products and focus exclusively on low-priced furniture, and the IKEA that we know today was born.

In 1953 IKEA found itself in a price war with its main competitor. As both companies lowered prices quality was also at risk. To counter this, the company opened its first furniture showroom in Älmhult thus presenting their products in three dimensions function, quality and low price. Customers did just what IKEA had hoped, they wisely chose the products with the best value for the money and for the first time it was possible to see and touch the product before ordering.

By 1955 IKEA began designing their own furniture as pressure from competitors caused suppliers to boycott the successful firm. This move lead to a more innovative design and function and even lower prices. Then, by lucky inspiration, one early IKEA employee decided to remove a table's legs so it would fit into a car, and avoid transport damage. From there flat packaging was introduced leading to even further reductions in price.

With many innovative designs and national and international expansion IKEA now numbers 127,000 co-workers across a global network of over 250 stores in 24 countries and in 1985 the first store opened in the U.S.

You may wish to visit Älmhult during your visit to Sweden just 62 kilometers southwest of Växjö off of route 23.


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