Ikea founder dies at 91
Kamprad opened his first store in 1943 at 17 and it has since developed revenues of more than €38 billion from 412 shops in 49 countries.
Torbjörn Lööf, CEO of the Inter Ikea Group, said: “We are deeply saddened by Ingvar’s passing. We will remember his dedication and commitment to always side with the many people. To never give up, always try to become better and lead by example.”
Ikea undercut its rivals by making customers assemble their own furniture and building large warehouse stores.
Kamprad stepped back from running Ikea in 1988 but continued in an advisory role. Kamprad had long ago passed on his stake in Ikea to the INGKA Foundation and Inter Ikea Group.
He is thought to have left a fortune of around €37.3 billion by 2016, according to Swedish media reports.
He began selling affordable furniture in 1948 and the first mail-order catalogue came out in 1951. In 1955, Ikea employee Gillis Lundgren suggested removing the legs from a table and tucking them under its top to create flat-pack furniture, which was easier and cheaper to transport. Ikea’s first non-Swedish store opened in Norway in 1963 and the initial US outlet came in 1985.
Kamprad was criticised for his early links to Sweden’s fascist movement, which he admitted in a 1999 book about his life was his “greatest mistake”.
Kamprad asked for forgiveness for his “stupidity”.
He also admitted to the Swedish media that he had attended meetings of Nazi organisations between 1945 and 1948, when fascist movements were at a low ebb.
He also came under fire for moving to Switzerland in 1976 to avoid high Swedish tax rates. He returned to Sweden in 2014 after the death of his wife, Margaret.
The retailer said its “hardworking and stubborn” founder was “one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century”, with “a lot of warmth and a playful twinkle in his eye”.
Despite being one of the world’s wealthiest men, Kamprad maintained a reputation for frugality, driving a Volvo, wearing second-hand clothing from flea markets and assembling his own furniture.
“It’s in the nature of Småland to be thrifty,” Kamprad said in a 2016 documentary, referring to the southern agricultural region where he was born. “If we want to be cost-conscious, we should do it, not just talk about how cost-conscious we are.”
Retail analyst Neil Saunders of Globaldata said Kamprad was one of the few people who could claim to have “truly revolutionised” the industry.
Ingvar Kamprad in 2010. Picture credit: Flickr