Starting from 2021, Ikea will abandon its catalog. By the way, is the catalog still necessary? We have asked Mauro Mamoli, President of Federmobili

Raise your hand if you have never flicked through the Ikea catalog, full of decorating ideas inspired by daily life. From 1950 to 2020, for 70 years, the catalog has been one of the keys of Ikea’s success. Over time, this furniture catalog has become an iconic magazine, offering advice to solve every space issue in any home.

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Cover of Ikea catalog 1951

The history of Ikea’s catalog

Ingvar Kamprad, Ikea’s founder, who passed away in 2018, created the first Ikea catalog in 1951; its cover featured the brown upholstered MK armchair. It was available only in Swedish, had 68 pages, and 285,000 copies were printed and distributed in southern Sweden. The first edition of the Ikea Office catalog dates back to 1998, while the first digital catalog is from 2000. In 2016, its peak year, 200 million copies of the Ikea catalog were printed, in 69 versions and 32 languages.

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Cover of Ikea catalog 2016

However, times are changing, and customers are adopting new and different ways of purchasing and interacting. According to Ikea, therefore, the catalog has fallen into disuse and is no longer useful. Since 2001 – when e-commerce was launched in Scandinavia – to date, Ikea’s online sales worldwide have increased steadily – rising by 45% in 2019. Also in 2019, Ikea.com recorded over four billion visits, and, in the meanwhile, Ikea improved its digital services with the launch of new apps.

Discover the Delaktig collection by Tom Dixon for Ikea

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Homepage of Ikea Italia’s website

The spread of e-commerce

In 2020, also due to the Covid-19 health emergency, online shopping has experienced a sudden acceleration worldwide, and also Ikea has realized that the catalog may be outdated. For many years the Ikea catalog has been a very helpful tool for outfitting the homes and meeting the needs of millions of people, and we are sure that all the information collected throughout approximately 100 catalogs will not be lost. What will change is just the way we connect and interact.

Discover Musselblomma, the sustainable fabric by Ikea obtained from sea waste

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Cover of Ikea catalog 2021, the last

The role of catalogs in the sale of furniture

Bu there is one question: is the time really over for catalogs as tools to sale furniture? We have asked Mauro Mamoli, President of Federmobili.

“The decision to eliminate the catalog altogether, both paper and digital versions – says Mauro Mamoli – is certainly relevant. And the fact that it was made by Ikea is even more relevant as this company has rarely made communication mistakes. Such a strong choice made by a company like Ikea must have been very well thought out. Remember that the Ikea catalog was an iconic magazine and leafing through it during the year was almost a ritual.”

Cover of Ikea catalog 1989, when Ikea opened its first store in Italy, in Cinisello Balsamo (near Milan)

What about a virtual catalog?

But, from a retailer’s point of view, is the catalog still useful as a sales tool?

In general, retailers still use manufacturers’ catalogs, I would even say that they are still among the most used tools, to see the solutions to be proposed. Of course, they can be replaced by browsing through catalogs available online, and in some cases via app, but it’s up to the store or the manufacturer. In general, retailers are very much in the habit of leafing through paper catalogs, and we find them more practical, sometimes even just more beautiful, so glossy. However, times change, and we return to the old issue of the evolution of a sector that, in some respects, is still lagging behind. For this reason, a message as strong as Ikea’s abandonment of the catalog should make us think. And it should force us to deal with a consumer who, within a few years, will have extremely different habits.”

Cover of the 2020 catalog of La casa Moderna, network of independent Italian retailers

Are we going to have virtual catalogs?

“Actually, there are already many experiences of this kind, with programs that make it possible to visit environments with virtual reality or other digitization experiences. However, although this is definitely the future and partially the present, a lot of work is needed to build efficient online sales paths shared by manufacturers and retailers.”

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Ikea digital catalog

Ikea: furniture beyond the catalog

Therefore, Ikea’s abandonment of the catalog is an event that marks a discontinuity in the way we were used to consider furniture communication. By browsing through Ikea catalogs in chronological order, we can clearly see the changes in furniture, which reflect the changes in people’s customs and habits. We can discover how the functions of the various rooms in the home have changed over 70 years, along with styles, materials and colors. Ikea will celebrate the history of its catalog with an Inspiration Book in 2021. And it will continue to inspire its millions of customers with ever-new solutions and proposals, proceeding on the path opened by Ingvar Kamprad in 1950. [Roberta Mutti]

Click here to discover Markerad, Virgil Abloh’s limited edition collection for Ikea

Ikea Museum has recently digitized all Ikea catalogs. Click here to see them

Below, all the covers of Ikea catalogs by decade

The ’50s

The ’60s

The ’70s

The ’80s

The ’90s

The 2000s

2010-2021