In the early days, Ingvar kept his stock of pens, watches and stockings at the family farm in Elmtaryd. Orders came in via post or telephone, and then Ingvar, with help from family members, would pack them up in the evenings. Sending parcels to customers at that time was as simple as it was ingenious. Every morning, the milk-collecting lorry stopped at the farm to pick up milk to take to the dairy. Ingvar had convinced them to also pick up his parcels and take them to the post office or railway station. After a few years selling pens, watches and stockings, Ingvar Kamprad saw the potential of selling furniture by mail order. And thanks to his financial success with pens, he had a small amount of start-up capital. But it was a tough industry. Really tough. To survive, he had to act in bold new ways – something that became his hallmark.
But before we find out what Ingvar Kamprad was up to in the late 1940s, let’s take a brief look at what happened in Sweden in the years immediately prior. Just like the rest of Europe, Sweden had been hit by the Great Depression and economic problems of the 1930s.worsened the economic crisis in Sweden. But the Social Democrats’ 1932 election win marked the beginning of a new era, with politicians deciding to invest themselves out of the crisis, rather than saving. Out of this the idea the welfare state was born, and later on the concept of (literally ‘the people’s home’), whereby the state offered favourable loans to everyone who wanted to start a home. Put simply, the government was investing in people and their homes. Sweden and the Swedes, who had been somewhat spared the horrors of WWII, viewed the future with optimism. So when a young Ingvar Kamprad turned up with his first attempts to sell furniture, it was in a relatively positive climate. A time of faith in the future, where people’s own homes were important. A time when demand for furniture was increasing and people actually had some spare money to make a home.
So in 1948, five years after IKEA was registered, the very first furniture was advertised in a small brochure. A few easy chairs and a couple of tables were displayed to a population that wanted and was able to buy furniture for their own homes. IKEA did still sell crystal jewellery and Argentinian leather briefcases, but it was the furniture that brought success. The next brochure featured even more furniture – a sofa bed from Elfs Möbler in Älmhult and a crystal chandelier from Örsjö. Everything sold out. Customers ordered by coupon, and the factories delivered.