Ikea recently announced that it would be selling more stuff online through third parties, like Amazon. But actually, you’ve been able to buy Ikea products on non-Ikea websites for quite a while. The concept seems appealing, too. Who wouldn’t want to buy cheap Ikea stuff without confronting the Saturday-destroying task of going to the store? Me, that’s who.
This new idea of Ikea itself selling products through third party websites is significant. You can currently buy stuff on Ikea’s website—but shipping costs are through the roof and it can take weeks to get the products delivered. You can also buy brand new Ikea products on Amazon, but it’s not actually Ikea that’s selling them. It’s often just resellers that buy the products at Ikea and then list them on Amazon for higher prices. Many people have built multi-million dollar businesses reselling brick-and-mortar retail merchandise online, and anyone could understand how a massive retailer like Ikea would want to cut out the middleman.
“[This] is the biggest development in how consumers meet Ikea since the concept was founded,” Torbjörn Lööf, chief executive of the Inter Ikea, told The Financial Times. “Traditionally the whole Ikea value chain has been designed to deliver to stores. That is changing and it is challenging a number of ways of doing business.”
Lööf and his Ikea colleagues obviously see the writing on the wall. FT reports that the Swedish flat-pack furniture giant is dealing with a decline in visitors to its big blue boxes in out-of-the-way places. That sucks for Ikea, because the primary way to buy new Ikea furniture and homewares was to drive out to these warehouse-sized stores and wind your way through the signature Ikea maze, while picking up all sorts of reasonably priced items you didn’t plan on buying. The Ikea shuffle, a phrase I just made up, was once a famously brilliant retail strategy, but the big box retail business is in the autumn of its life. This year has been a particularly destructive year for retail.
Again, you can buy some Ikea products on the Ikea website. The started selling some of its products online over a decade ago, but Ikea has always pushed people to its stores by offering a limited selection online and charging outrageous prices for shipping. At present, shipping costs start at $100 for larger items, and you’ll pay at least $10 for shipping smaller products. For many orders, that erases the savings of buying cheap Ikea furniture.
And so, at this very moment, shopping at an Ikea store is still much better than shopping for Ikea products on Amazon. The reason is simple: Amazon resellers price-gouge. I’m not talking a few extra bucks tacked on to cover the reseller’s operating costs. Plenty of Ikea products are twice as expensive, if you buy through Amazon resellers. Take this nice-looking Micke desk, for example. It’s $80 at Ikea:
The exact same Micke desk is over $160 on Amazon:
Do you see the trick? With free shipping through Prime, you can actually get the desk shipped to your home for less than it would cost to buy directly from Ikea and pay the $100 shipping on top of the $80 price tag. You can see how so many third party sellers have carved out a cottage industry for themselves.
In shopping for some replacement goods that my puppy recently devoured (pillowcases, cutting boards, couch cushions) I turned to Amazon hoping to avoid a trip to the Ikea store in Brooklyn. Some of the prices were double. The same pillowcase I bought at the Ikea store for $4 costs $10 on Amazon. The slightly nicer pillowcase I’d like to buy costs $8 at the Ikea store. It costs $27 on Amazon.
So color me intrigued. Going to the Ikea store is a pain—it always has been. Workarounds like buying from resellers on Amazon isn’t just painful. It’s insultingly profitable for some schmuck on the other end of the internet. No wonder Ikea wants in on it. Ikea fans can only hope that the Swedish futon clearinghouse won’t take up the same habit of price-gouging
It’s so far unclear exactly when and where Ikea will start selling its products through third parties online. I’ve reached out to the company to find out more details, as well as its motivation for finally caving in to the power of Amazon, and will update this post if I hear back. In the meantime, I’ll just go to the Ikea store for my desks and pillowcases thank you very much.