Jon Abrahamsson Ring, Managing Director of Inter IKEA Systems B.V..

U-turn in the UK. From flat sales figures to happier customers.

IKEA retail sales reached EUR 41.3 billion in FY19 (the business year starting 1 September 2018 and ending 31 August 2019). We’re really happy about that – because it shows our customers are happy with us. Jon Abrahamsson Ring, Managing Director, Inter IKEA Systems B.V., explains how one IKEA market’s sales figures inspired a new approach to the customer experience.

IKEA retail sales grew 6.5% in FY19. How was that growth achieved?

“For us, sales is one important way of knowing if customers appreciate how we do things and what we have to offer. Last year’s growth is the result of many years of planning, investments and improvements to the customer experience. And yes, we’re pleased about the growth. But customer expectations are always changing, so we know there’s still lots to do.”

How have you made things better for customers?

“Making things better for customers is the heart and soul of the IKEA business. Every day we test, try, and improve nearly everything we do. IKEA UK is one of many good examples.

Approximately 6 years ago, UK growth was flat. Customers found existing stores hard to reach and IKEA services expensive and unreliable. IKEA UK took this challenge head on by focusing on becoming even more accessible to the many people, by analysing, tweaking and in some cases replacing tried and tested ways of working.”

So what did they do about it?

“IKEA UK decided to take a holistic approach to London, their biggest market. Rather than think about the stores and website separately, they considered everything about how people in London interact with the IKEA brand. Then they identified new ways to inspire customers, and make shopping and getting IKEA products home even easier.

As a result, they created more diverse options for people to meet the IKEA brand. They improved their services and created new stores closer to where people live, work and socialise. And they continue to refine and improve to this day.

Now we’re taking a similar “total market approach” across all IKEA markets. Our aim is to be more accessible for people everywhere.”

IKEA UK created new stores closer to where people live, work and socialise.

Jon Abrahamsson Ring - Managing Director, Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

How do the big IKEA stores outside the city centres fit into this approach?

“This year’s sales and visitation show lots of customers still appreciate them. Many customers still visit to touch and try products before eventually buying online. So we continue to improve our traditional big stores and even build new ones. For example, IKEA Greenwich opened in south London in February, and we’re proud to say it’s the most sustainable IKEA store yet.”

An interior from IKEA UK’s Learning Lab showing a female IKEA employee with brown hair and a yellow shirt.
IKEA UK’s Learning Lab offers bookable workshops and activities on how to reduce waste, re-use materials and upcycle.

So the stores support online sales?

“Really it goes both ways. Yes, the stores support e-commerce. But customers also browse products on the IKEA website and pick them up in a store. So you could say the website also supports cash & carry. Some of our competition – including big online retailers – have realised this too. So they’re building new stores, showrooms and pick-up points to complement their online channels.

What we learned is that customers expect more than great e-commerce. They expect the website, stores, and all other touch-points to work together. And why shouldn’t they?”

Customer expectations are always changing, so we know there’s still lots to do.

Jon Abrahamsson Ring - Managing Director Inter IKEA Systems B.V.
Glass and wood facade showing the entrance to the new IKEA Greenwich store.
The IKEA Greenwich store opened in south London in February 2019.