Ikea founder passes away

Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Swedish furniture giant Ikea, has died at the age of 91.

The furniture giant said Kamprad passed away at his home in southern Sweden on Saturday.

“The founder of Ikea and Ikano, and one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century, Ingvar Kamprad, has peacefully passed away, at his home in Smaland, Sweden, on the 27th of January,” the retailer said in a statement.

“(He) was a great entrepreneur of the typical southern Swedish kind – hardworking and stubborn, with a lot of warmth and a playful twinkle in his eye

“Ingvar will be very missed and warmly remembered by his family and Ikea colleagues around the world.”

Founded in 1943 by Kamprad when he was a teen, Ikea began developing its own furniture in the mid-1950s, popularising renowned Scandinavian design – sleek and functional – on an industrial scale and conquering first Europe and then North America before taking on the rest of the world.

He got the idea for flat-pack furniture as he watched an employee taking the legs off a table to fit it into a customer’s car and realised that saving space meant saving money.

Kamprad has been previously ranked among the world’s 20 richest people by Forbes magazine. His personal fortune was recently estimated at more than 30 billion euros ($A45 billion) and Ikea is now heading for 50 billion euros in annual revenues.

Few people can claim to have genuinely revolutionised retail, but Kamprad did, according to Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.

“When he founded it, Ikea was markedly different to anything that had existed in retail,” he said.

“Much of this difference was down to Ingvar’s Swedish heritage and instincts.”

Consumers embraced his ideas, said Saunders who added it is no exaggeration to say that Kamprad’s innovative approach changed not just the furniture sector, but the way people decorated and led their lives at home.

“He believed that home furnishings should be democratic; that people of all income levels should be able to afford to decorate and furnish their homes stylishly and comfortably. He also believed in thrift, efficiency and hard work.

“Putting these two concepts together, gave rise to the revolutionary idea of flat-pack furniture. Distributing flat-pack was much more efficient and economical than shipping fully made items. It also divided the effort – prices were lower because the customer had to assemble the product; that was the trade-off or compromise.”

* This story first appeared on sister site Inside Retail Australia.

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