Triggering a DIY retail revolution — that happened because one Ikea staff couldn’t fit a new table in his car
BY NABANITA DUTT
Simply put, knockdown furniture is ready-to-assemble furniture. Some also call it “flat-pack”, but the idea is the same. The manufacturer creates a kit of components and writes up a how-to sheet, so you can put it all together at home. This reduces manufacturing costs, the retailer saves on storage space and you pay a lot less than you would if the furniture had been sold, built-up.
It’s modern, cost-effective and convenient. Especially if your car is small or your apartment is at the end of many flights of stairs.
The idea of knocking down furniture, unsurprisingly, has triggered a retail revolution in all sorts of other large consumer goods as well, and two generations have grown up with at least the most basic hammering-and-nailing skills.
And it all happened because a Swedish designer couldn’t fit a new table in his car in the 1950s. In exasperation, he had cut off the legs, and re-attached them to the table when he got home.
His name was Gillis Lundgren. And he was employed at Ikea.
Ikea wasn’t mogul of mass-produced home décor in those days. It was primarily a mail-order company, with enough smarts to see what a golden opportunity Lundgren was handing them, when he told the board of directors about his experience with chopping and reassembling Ikea’s leaf-shaped `Lovet’ table.
Fired up by the vision of turning the furniture business on its head, Ikea sent its designers back to the drawing board to now create knockdown prototypes. The Lovet was turned into a flat pack. More items from the Ikea inventory followed, until the company became synonymous with the ready-to-assemble concept.
Fabulously modern and sharply Scandinavian in design, people embraced the Ikea flat pack for it’s urban coolness and affordable price point, not caring that the stuff was all cardboard and MDF, tacked together with small nails. A great marketing engine populated Ikea’s success story with `celebs’ from their product line — Billy, Expedit and Malm to name just 3 – that command a dedicated fan following in more than 350 countries all over the world.
People love to know and share Ikea stories, which is why the Lovet Table – the pioneer of flat pack – has been modernized and re-introduced in the market as the Lovbacken. “Until now, not many knew the incredible story about how it all began with a simple little table,” comments Ikea’s Emily Birkin. “We know from our research that people are becoming more interested in buying pieces of furniture that have a story attached to them, so we decided to bring back a popular piece that not only comes steeped in history, but combines retro styling with modern convenience.”
Until recently, however, the concept of ready-to-assemble was limited to the mid to low-end, price driven market. Luxury furniture brands would be appalled at the idea of selling their quality sofa sets and chairs in little bits and pieces.
But that snobbery too is showing small signs of waning with unique, on-trend brands flattening their expensive furniture, knowing full well that their customers will not hesitate to follow them in that direction.
And what’s more, the drudgery of self-assembly is also being re-positioned as a fun, team project for the whole family to do on weekends. After all, we are living in a very handmade, DIY-inspired age, and the opportunities to connect cross-generationally through activities are so few and far between.
IKEA `DIY’ HUMOR EVERYBODY LOVES…
Ψ Ikea meatballs contain horse DNA… There’s a joke in there somewhere, you’ll have to assemble it yourselves.
Ä Just been stopped by the police for having a load of snow on the roof of my car.
Ø I managed to get out of the fine though – I told the copper it was a flat pack igloo I bought from Ikea.
∑ Two people have been killed and another seriously injured in a knife attack at an Ikea store in Sweden. Police are currently at the crime scene trying to piece the evidence together.
Ê I just bought an Igloo from IKEA. 200 litres of water (freezer not included).
Λ The waiter said, “Your table will be ready shortly.” This is the last time I’ll be going to Ikea’s restaurant.
Ξ I’ve created an IKEA style brothel. You pay for a room and then self-pleasure whilst swearing at yourself.
Š The founder of Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad is a multi-billionaire. Ironically, self-made.