After 70 Years, Ikea Discontinues Its Printed Catalog

The Swedish furniture giant turns the page on one of its brand cornerstones.

What’s Happening: Ikea has officially turned the page on its printed catalog, which circulated for more than 70 years and was reported to have 200 million copies distributed at its peak in 2016.

The Download: Although the Swedish furniture giant’s printed catalog captured the hearts of home design enthusiasts worldwide for more than 70 years, times have changed. With the advent of e-commerce, catalog readership has declined considerably while the retailer reports digital sales increases of more than 45 percent. Ikea has long resisted embracing e-commerce in lieu of immersive experiences at its gargantuan blue-box emporiums, but the pandemic has forced it to embrace new tech-forward ways of reaching customers, including the launch of an AR app that lets users visualize furniture in situ.

It’s worth noting that Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprand put together the brand’s first-ever catalog in 1951—it totaled 68 pages and 285,000 copies were distributed across southern Sweden. As the company grew in popularity, its catalog became somewhat of an annual insight into contemporary living sensibilities; some libraries carry back-copies, which have become collector’s items. And at its peak, the catalog rivaled the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Harry Potter series in terms of total copies printed.

In Their Own Words: “For both customers and co-workers, the Ikea catalog is a publication that brings a lot of emotions, memories, and joy. For 70 years, it has inspired billions of people,” said Konrad Grüss, managing director of Inter IKEA Systems, who described the move as a natural evolution. “We have been transforming many aspects of how to reach and interact with our customers, and the work continues to find new ways to amplify unique Ikea home furnishing knowledge, products, and solutions in the best possible way—to inspire many people through new ways, channels, and formats.”

Surface Says: While we’re all for nostalgia, not printing 200 million catalogs every year seems like a long-overdue eco-friendly move. Here’s to hoping other mass-market retailers follow suit.

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