Textiles Thrive at Ikea

Carole Sloan, November 7, 2005

Conshocken, Pa. —Home textiles is an “unbelievable growth engine” at Ikea, the result of a major revision in the home furnishings chain's approach to the business two years ago.

“The United States is probably the biggest seller of down products for Ikea,” said Pernille Spiers-Lopez, president, Ikea North America. In comforters and bed pillows, “We have different quality and fill levels.”

The 26-unit United States division — the 26th store opens this week in Stoughton, Mass. — revamped its home textiles strategy two years ago, moving to introduce product more frequently, and presenting textiles as coordinates rather than as individual items.

The coordinate approach has been so successful in this country that “it now is a global program based on its U.S. origins,” Spiers-Lopez related. And introductions are programmed several times a year.

In its change to less rigid presentation of product by category, “Our room approach has been highly successful,” Spiers-Lopez said. In total bedroom, for example, “We have a new mattress range, but it is shown with bed frames and the textiles for the beds and the curtains.” The same approach is followed in the catalog, she added.

Overall, she emphasized, “We are about helping people find solutions for everyday life with good functional products, value, and an assortment for all parts of the home.”

A key part of the product introduction, Spiers-Lopez explained, is the design challenge called “Ikea PS” which has designers around the world creating products for the stores and catalog. “We challenge them to use different materials, and to approach design from another angle than before,” she said. “It serves to broaden our design scope.” In the competition, the designers are given free rein to find new ways to use materials for all aspects of design.

New for Ikea is a program geared to small businesses, “an outgrowth of our many women customers who come to us to help them in their businesses — 'double wallet customers,'” said Spiers-Lopez. Ikea is working with the small businesses for all home products for break rooms, offices and storage. “We have focus groups, and they're looking for low prices and quick delivery.”

As part of this new program, Ikea is networking with groups all over the country, especially with the Womens Leadership Exchange. “It's a totally different way of marketing,” she said.

While the stores and the catalog are primary ways to purchase at Ikea, “You can shop and buy in a very manual manner now — shopping on the Internet and buying via e-mail,” Spiers-Lopez said. “We will have e-commerce in the near future. The Web site is not totally set up, but it will be within a year. The focus today is to ship customers to areas where we have stores.”

As for new stores, “One of the challenges I had in my new job was to open new stores, both to reach new markets and to ease the pressure on major existing stores that were too crowded. Now with 26 stores, the focus is on improving existing stores. Four or five new ones a year is a good pace for us,” she stated. Currently, new sites have been identified in Brooklyn, N.Y., Canton, Mich., Dublin, Calif., Portland, Ore., Round Rock, Texas, Somerville, Mass., and Sacramento, Calif.

The $18.3 billion global company did $2 billion in the United States in fiscal 2005.

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