Stop struggling with assembling that bookshelf and read some facts about the international DIY furniture chain that put you into that mess in the first place.
“IKEA” isn’t a Swedish word, or somebody’s name—it’s an acronym. Founder Ingvar Kamprad grew up on Elmtaryd, a farm in Agynnaryd, a town in Sweden. Take the first letters of Ingvar Kamprad and Elmtaryd Agynnaryd—I, K, E, and A, and you get IKEA. Most Americans pronounce that name “Eye-Kee-uh.” That’s actually wrong. It’s more properly pronounced “Ee-KAY-uh.”
What’s the most published book in the world? Well, the bestselling book of all time is the Bible. But the most distributed book each year is the IKEA catalog. More than 200 million copies of the company’s phone book-thick catalog—in more than two dozen different languages—are printed and distributed around the world every year.
IKEA spends enough money on printing those catalogs, so they cut corners on other printed materials, such as on their instruction manuals. Customers must put together most IKEA items themselves, and do so with the help of one or two pages of directions in the form of pictograms. Those pictures (usually) make the directions clear. Otherwise, if IKEA printed out written directions in dozens of languages, those manuals would be very thick and very costly to produce.
IKEA sold about $30 billion worth of furniture in 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available. And yet, the company is a non-profit organization. But it’s not a charity—just a shrewdly organized one. The furniture chain is a division of a holding company called Ingka, which is itself a division of Stichting Ingka Foundation, a tax-exempt organization. At the end of the day, IKEA pays a corporate tax rate of a little over 3 percent.
IKEA sells so much furniture that they use up 1 percent of the world’s annual wood production. And in processing that wood into furniture, the company’s main supplier generates 30 million pounds of sawdust each day.
Going to an IKEA store can be an all-day affair…so they’ve got a restaurant on the premises. Selling primarily Swedish meatballs and hot dogs, the IKEA cafes generate about $2 billion a year. That’s about how much business Arby’s does every year.