Sunday, December 29, 2013
Swedish giants Ikea were a company who until recently appeared to have got everything right. Their furniture was so popular that world domination beckoned and with clever store layouts and admirable marketing campaigns all seemed to be rosy in the gnome free garden. Twenty thirteen, however, has not been a great year for the company which is rapidly turning into scandal central and if the trend continues they could fall off of their rather lofty perch.
License: Creative Commons image source
Horse Meat in the BallsThe year got off to a bad start when Ikea became embroiled in the horse meat scandal. The issue raised its ugly head when traces of horse meat were detected in burgers tested in Ireland and then rapidly grew into a continent-wide drama. In February equine material was found in Ikea’s signature meatballs which were produced by Swedish company Familjen Dafgard. The meatballs were withdrawn from sale whilst investigations continued only to reappear just in time for another food scandal to break.
Sticky SituationIkea’s chocolate almond cake was found to contain faecal matter and the sticky treat was then also withdrawn from sale. Suddenly the home of the flat pack was not looking so saintly but furniture sales remained unaffected and the company’s expansion continued unabated. The Ikea executives must have been breathing a sigh of relief as they weathered the storm but the end of the year has seen the organisation run into something of a tsunami.
Dangerous LightsA 17 month old child was found to have choked to death on the cord of a star shaped children’s lamp from Ikea. Further investigations revealed that this was not an isolated incident as another child had nearly befallen the same fate. A massive 23 million lights were then recalled from around the world. The wall mounted lamps had been on sale since 1999 as part of the “Smila” series but were now off the shelves. The fittings could be pulled into cots if mounted within reach of small children who were attracted by the bright lights.
SpyingTo make matters even worse Ikea now finds itself in court in France over allegations of spying on its own employees and even complaining customers! It is alleged that Ikea France routinely hired private detectives to spy on prospective recruits and also employees who claimed to be sick, a practice which is illegal in the country. Customers were also investigated in an attempt to undermine their complaints. The victims of the spying appear to include former Deputy Director of Communications and Merchandising Virginie Paulin who was suspected of exaggerating the effects of an illness and subsequently fired.
Ikea have certainly had a bad year and as their image gradually erodes one wonders what will be revealed next. Lethal products, contaminated food and spying are quite a hat trick and it wouldn’t take much more bad news to seriously damage the company. I would certainly think twice about shopping there now. I don’t eat the meatballs but I wouldn’t fancy being spied on if I had a complaint. I might just have to seek out Scandinavian furnishings and gifts elsewhere!
Sally Stacey is an enthusiastic writer and retail business owner who is now having second thoughts about shopping at Ikea.