Ikea takes ‘emotional’ decision to close catalogue

Ikea is to stop producing its iconic catalogue, once the most-printed book in the world ahead of the Bible and Koran.

The flat-pack furniture retailer on Monday said its current catalogue — released in August — would be its last as more and more shoppers move online and fewer read a pamphlet first released in 1951 by Ikea’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad.

“It’s an emotional decision, but it’s a rational decision,” said Inter Ikea, the owner of the brand and concept.

At its peak in 2015, Ikea produced more than 200m copies of the catalogue featuring a full array of its products from Billy bookcases to Ektorp sofas. The glossy brochure became a staple of family homes and student flats around the world.

The first catalogue was produced by Kamprad in his home region of southern Sweden, Smaaland, and distributed in 285,000 copies as part of his mail-order business, seven years before the first Ikea store opened. It gradually expanded around the world and the current 2021 catalogue ran to 40m copies.

“We don’t have a replacement for the catalogue, as of today. But we will look at how we reach the many people globally,” said the company, now based in the Netherlands.

Ikea is undergoing a huge transformation as it moves from forcing shoppers to drive to its big out-of-town warehouses to pick up and then assemble their own furniture to a wider range of options from city-centre stores to home delivery and even help with assembling sofas and wardrobes.

Its online sales increased 45 per cent in the year to the end of August while there were 4bn visits to its website. Ikea managers say shoppers are increasingly combining online and physical shopping, checking out furniture beforehand online or sitting on it in store before ordering from the website.

The catalogue was not without controversy. The Swedish government reacted furiously in 2012 when it emerged that women had been airbrushed out of pictures in the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue. The Ikea hotel in Almhult, the company’s home town, had a copy of the catalogue and a Bible in every room.

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