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Where and when did IKEA start?  What does IKEA stand for?  Who founded IKEA?  Find out all about the history of IKEA and the timeline of the store's development in this article.

IKEA founder, Ingvar KampradIngvar Kamprad

The founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, began his business career as a young boy selling matches purchased in bulk individually for a profit to his neighbors near Agunnaryd.  As his business grew, he expanded to selling fish, seeds, Christmas decorations and eventually, pencils and ball-point pens which were a new phenomenon in 1935.  He was very clever in utilizing his resources - he delivered his goods by bicycle, and later used the local milk delivery vehicle to make deliveries.

IKEA

In 1943, with a gift from his father, Ingvar established his business, using his initials, Ingvar Kamprad, the name of the farm on which he was born, Elmtaryd and the village nearby, Agunnaryd for the acronym. At this time, he was selling everything from pens and wallets to watches and nylon stockings by going door to door and selling directly to his customers. By 1945, the first advertisements for IKEA began showing up in local newspapers and he had developed a rudimentary catalog.

IKEA Catalog

Locally manufactured furniture first showed up in the IKEA product range in 1947 and was received positively by its customers.  It wasn't until 1951 however that Ingvar began to focus only on furniture and discontinued all other products from the IKEA product range.  The first IKEA furniture catalog was published that same year and 2 years later, in response to competition, the first furniture showroom opened in the village of Älmhult.  This same competition caused other furniture stores and manufacturers to put pressure on suppliers to boycott IKEA which led to the critical decision to design their own furniture beginning in 1955.

IKEA Flat Pack Furniture

ikea_lovet_table.jpgIt's difficult to overstate the importance of this turn of events.  Designing furniture for their own stores allowed IKEA to focus on low prices, improve function and ultimately led to the success of the company.  Around this time, an employee removed the legs of a table in order to fit it into the trunk of a car and avoid transportation damage, which began IKEA thinking about designing furniture to be flat packed.  In 1956, IKEA began testing the concept of flat pack to reduce costs through reduced transportation expenses, lowered storage space requirements, decreased transportation damage and reductions in labor costs. The IKEA Lovet table, pictured left, was the first IKEA product designed as flat pack furniture.

IKEA Stores

IKEA Stockholm 1965The first full IKEA store opened in Älmhult in 1958.  With 6700 m2 (72,118 ft2), it was the largest furniture display in all of Scandinavia. In 1963, the first IKEA store outside Sweden opened near Oslo in Norway, followed by the flagship store in Stockholm - a whopping 45,800 m2 (492,987 ft2) circular store inspired by the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.  The success of this store, and difficulties in serving customers due to an overfilled capacity led to the open warehouse concept that is key to the current structure of IKEA stores and the IKEA experience in general.  

In 1973, the first store outside Scandinavia was opened near Zurich, Switzerland, followed by rapid growth in Germany starting with IKEA Munich in 1974.  Germany remains IKEA's largest market today.  In 1975, IKEA Australia entered the market and IKEA Canada debuted in 1976 bringing the mega furniture store to two new continents in 2 years.  IKEA US opened its first store in 1985, and IKEA UK first opened in 1987.

In 2008, IKEA boasts 285 stores in 36 countries, with an additional 26 stores to be opened in 2009 and is the world's largest furniture manufacturer.