Ikea’s big Aussie furniture fail
A TOP Ikea executive has said he is "ashamed" at how the furniture giant has failed to understand the needs of Australian consumers and the company may take on product designers from Down Under to stop shoppers defecting to rivals.
During a visit to Sydney, the Sweden-based furniture firm's global head of design said its ranges offered to Australian consumers were "not up to par" and better products were needed to suit both our lifestyle and the harsher conditions in the southern hemisphere.
Marcus Engman also said the firm would be looking at launching products featuring Australian indigenous art.
Mr Engman spoke to news.com.au on the sidelines of Ikea's first 'Democratic Design Day' in Australia, a show case of the company's initiatives and new products.
During his trip from Sweden, Mr Engman said he had visited a number of Australians in their homes and found - despite our self-perceived uniqueness - we are really, much like everyone else.
"I'm sorry to say (Australians) are not that unique," Mr Engman said. "They share the same kind of problem as the rest of the world and the number one problem is storage and organising the home and that's why 50 per cent of our range is storage."
However, there was one area where he said the company, based in rainy and wintry Sweden, had misjudged Aussies.
"One of the big things is the way you are socialising not just indoors but outdoors," Mr Engman said.
"Outdoors is so important here in Australia and, I have to say, I'm a little bit ashamed of our range of outdoor (furniture). It's good but not up to par for Australian standards.
"That's something I will bring home (to Sweden) to solve - better is needed for Australia."
While the company's catalogue does feature some outdoor sofas, tables and accessories, the choice is far smaller than, for example, living rooms.
It's in stark contrast to competitor Bunnings which has hundreds of sofa, sun loungers, tables, chairs and even hammocks and outdoor bean bags on offer.
Market researchers IBIS World have estimated the Australian outdoor furniture market is worth $533 million annually and was growing at around 8 per cent a year.
"In Sweden, it's a damp situation while here it's a really sunny situation," Mr Engman told news.com.au. "We need to understand that the UV light (in Australia) is completely different so maybe we should have some Australian designers with us, that would be good."
Ikea's design team "could learn so much," he said, if they listened to Australians as they were "experts" on outdoor living.
Mr Engman also flagged that we may soon see products featuring indigenous art with the company collaborating with the renowned Pwerle Gallery.
"We're going to do a collection with Pwerle, do something with indigenous art in Australia and give that back to the rest of the world.
"We don't really know what that's going to be yet, we will develop it together, but I think it's really fun to start that journey."
The company has also announced recent collaborations with iconic toy maker Lego around the subject of play and Adidas looking at fitness and exercise.
Mr Engman said the firm's next challenge was to appeal to the one billion people worldwide who have no electricity.
"Could we do something for those one billion who choose not to be on the grid or don't want to be part of it anymore? The people who want to shut down the internet and have their own supply of electricity and water?"
You may not have light, but Ikea reckons you might still want a Billy bookcase.