IKEA stops publishing iconic catalog after 70 years

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IKEA’s legendary phone book-sized catalog no longer exists.

Swedish furniture retailer said on Monday that the 2021 catalog released in October would be the last, making the kibosh a central marketing tool that IKEA has used successfully for 70 years. IKEA spoke about the decline in catalog use and the need for a more modern way to present its products to customers.

The first Ikea catalog was released in Swedish in 1951, featuring the MK Wing Chair, and was mailed to 285,000 addresses in southern Sweden. At its peak, just four years ago, the IKEA Catalog was sent to 200 million homes in 50 markets and 32 languages. But it only produced 40 million this year.

“Turning the page with our beloved catalog is actually a natural process as media consumption and customer behaviors have changed,” Konrad Grüss, managing director of its global franchisor Inter IKEA Systems BV, said in a statement. Grüss called the decision “emotional but rational”.

IKEA said in its announcement that the move simply reflects how shopping has changed, with people browsing online a lot more than before: In its most recent financial year ending in August, IKEA’s online business worldwide sales increased by 45%, boosted by 4 billion visits to its website. The current pandemic has fueled this growth as consumers around the world focus more on their homes.

The company will produce much smaller printed items, including one focused on home furnishings, next year.

The removal of catalogs may meet with resistance from buyers who love their traditions. When JC Penney discontinued its “Big Book” catalog ten years ago, it has faced backlash and a bigger sales impact than expected. Penney briefly brought back the Big Book in 2015 only to abandon it again.

For many consumers, catalogs remain popular. RH, formerly known as Restoration Hardware, continues to send out its gigantic versions: last year, one of its mailings exceeded 700 pages. Other retailers including Nordstrom, Patagoniaand Crate and Barrel – publish them too. Some young Internet companies also participate in the action, including Wayfair and Bonobos.

Yet overall, catalogs have lost much of their appeal to marketers: Atlantic this spring brought back that the number of catalogs mailed to America had peaked to 19 billion in 2007, and by 2018, had fallen to about 11.5 billion.

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