A downtown Vancouver condo unit, 30 floors up with a patio overlooking historical Yaletown and lush False Creek.
Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it? But at 300 square feet—including the patio—living in the big city tends to come with compromises.
When this was my precise situation as a fledgling journalist in my 20’s—a small space and even smaller budget—the IKEA just outside of town was a Swedish godsend.
In hindsight, I neither celebrate nor denounce this simple fact: All the furniture in my studio was from IKEA.
The iconic brand was established in Älmhult, Småland in July of 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad, who began his business by fulfilling mail-orders via bicycle. And after 80 years of Swedish heritage and an impressive global expansion—IKEA now boasts hundreds of stores stretched across dozens of countries—it seems silly to equate the big-box retailer as “local.”
Yet it has proven such a longstanding staple for Lower Mainlanders in BC—find a tech office without at least something from IKEA, I dare you—the popular store feels almost as Canadian as does Zellers or the Bay (especially given the Bay is American-owned).
Except that IKEA lacks a conservative humility perhaps associated with Canadian companies. The brand is steadfast in optimizing operations and maintaining consistent growth while also enhancing the sustainability of the business.
Recently, IKEA Canada announced plans to inject more than $400 million into projects expanding fulfillment capabilities in the Greater Vancouver and Toronto Areas, which the company says will “help the brand continue to meet the evolving ways that customers shop today, while supporting their commitment to help Canadians enjoy a better life at home.”
“At IKEA, we are always looking for ways to optimize our operations to better meet our customers’ need for convenience and speed, while continuing to help fulfill their aspirations for a better life at home,” stated Geoffrey Macdonald, CFO of IKEA Canada, in June.
As e-commerce gains steam, IKEA says it is “focused on accelerating its business transformation to deliver a memorable and seamless customer experience journey across all customer meeting points.”
“We are focused on further transforming and developing our fulfilment networks in key markets across the country to ensure that our products are available to customers—whenever, wherever, and however they choose to shop with us,” Macdonald affirmed.
IKEA’s business has long been built on large-format stores and an in-person shopping experience—with the famous showroom floors being among the most viscerally physical consumer experiences (the in-store restaurant is another nice touch). Increasingly, however, customers shop the brand’s products and solutions digitally through website and app.
The Swedish icon has been slower to expand the digital side of things than other big retailers but can only afford to lag behind so long.
In BC, IKEA Canada aims to expand fulfillment capabilities at the Richmond location. The upgraded store will provide customers with enhanced click-and-collect and locker pickup services, while also supporting truck, parcel, and collection point delivery throughout the Greater Vancouver market.
It’s all part of a broader omni-channel transformation that includes “enhancements to existing store experiences” and “strengthened digital capabilities and services,” according to the brand, which also has an eye toward environmentalism.
IKEA attracts roughly one billion customers per year, including 700 million to its stores. Emissions from vehicles going to and from these stores account for around 15% of IKEA’s total “climate footprint.”
By 2025, IKEA hopes all customer deliveries and services in Canada will use electric vehicles or other zero-emission solutions—and for the business as a whole to be “climate-positive” by 2030.
Achieving this transition “will require challenging our current ways of working and finding service partners who want to join us on our journey,” according to Angela Hultberg, who recently served as Head of Sustainable Mobility for Ingka Group, which operates IKEA in most major markets.