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Ikea scraps famed catalogue after 70 years

Dec 07,2020 - Last updated at Dec 07,2020

STOCKHOLM — Swedish furniture giant Ikea said on Monday it would stop printing its famed annual catalogue, ending a seven-decade tradition as customers moved to digital alternatives.

The catalogues offered a snapshot on contemporary living that made them intensely popular, with circulation reaching a peak in 2016, when 200 million copies in 32 different languages were distributed worldwide.

But with fewer people reading the printed catalogue as online shopping soared, the retailer said it had taken the "decision to respectfully end the successful career of the Ikea Catalogue”.

"After a 70-year-legacy, we have taken the decision to turn the page and say: No, we won't be printing the catalogue any more going forward, nor do a digital version," said Konrad Gruss, Managing Director at Inter Ikea Systems.

Gruss called it "an emotional but also very rational decision", as he noted a "big change in customer behaviour", with customers now also choosing to "interact on the web, in apps and social media".

In 2000, a digital version of the catalogue was launched, but this would also not be renewed.

According to Ikea, the very first catalogue was put together by the Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad himself in 1951, and it was printed in 285,000 copies, which were distributed around the southern part of Sweden where the company was also started.

While talks about the future of the catalogue had been ongoing for the last four years, Gruss said the final decision was taken in the last few months as discussions on a 2022 edition were underway. 

He added that if not now the decision would probably have been taken in 2022 or 2023, and even if it was not due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the arrival of the virus "has maybe been speeding up the decision."

Even though the catalogue would not have a digital replacement, Gruss stressed that dropping it was "not a cost saving exercise."

"The money that we're not using for production [of the catalogue] we will reinvest into other media," Gruss said, while declining to say how much the catalogue cost.

"What we can say is that the catalogue has traditionally been a large share of our marketing spending," Gruss said.

 With large numbers of copies printed over the past years, Gruss said he was unsure whether the catalogue ever claimed the top spot.

"I can't say that with proof but I can say that we have been at least among the biggest ones over a long period of time," Gruss said.

The last printed catalogue was the 2021 version that shipped this summer.

Forty million copies were made.

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