Thirty years ago the world’s first IKEA navigation tower was erected in Shuwaikh to guide the country’s citizens to a showroom full of inspiration and family fun. When the store opened its doors on April 24, 1984 the 3800 square meters housed 20 room settings, and became a sensation in Kuwait.
“When we opened our first store in Kuwait, we challenged ourselves to fulfill the mandate of providing our customers with an unmatched in-store experience,” said Ahmad Al Humaidhi, store manager of IKEA Kuwait.
In three decades they have built an environment where people come to get inspiration for their homes, wherever the room may be. From kitchen cabinets to little candles, the products offer a variety of do-it-yourself solutions and predesigned concepts. You probably know someone who has a Kivik sofa in their living room, or a Pax wardrobe in their bedroom.
Today, IKEA is housed in the prestigious The Avenues mall in a space that is more than six times its original size, and has more than doubled the number of room settings. We sat down with Marino Maganto, CEO of SYH retail to ask him how the Swedish home furnishing giant has become such a smashing success.
“For the last 30 years, we have offered our customers a fun day for the whole family, with more than 25 million visitors, and we will continue to welcome them for many years to come. At IKEA we are proud of the long and rich relationship we have with the local community,” he said.
Maganto joined IKEA in 1996 in the IKEA Food and Beverage department of the Madrid store. There he served hot dogs and washed dishes on the weekend. His dedication earned him opportunities to face larger challenges and he worked his way up to store manager. Eventually he moved to Germany to head the largest IKEA market in the world, until his path lead him to Kuwait.
For Maganto, the IKEA values are what retain people like him. The integrity they bring to their business dealings have made the furniture giant a favorite for many. Like Maganto many of the Kuwait branch employers have been with the company for decades such as the finance officer who is celebrating his 30 years with the company on its anniversary.
With experience in markets around the world what makes Kuwait different? “Not much,” says Maganto. “At the end we all have the same needs,” he continued. “You get married and move in together. You have scarce resources at the beginning and as you grow older your resources start developing. Plus, we all have that one area in the home that is limited in space, whether it’s the guest bathroom in Europe or the maid’s room here in Kuwait.”
IKEA stays in tune with their market by going to customer’s homes as well as creating focus groups inside the store to find out what styles and pieces interest them most, and fulfill their needs. This inclusionary role of the customers keeps them connected to the brand, and IKEA aware of the people they are serving.
What could be more important to a CEO than improving sales? According to Maganto, the true strength of the business lies in their transparency.
“We are an open company and very honest,” he said. “It shows in how we design the products and prices. First we decide the price, then we work backwards so that we can get that price to the consumers. We put a very transparent price tag on everything, then we give you the possibility to choose, instead of charging you for everything then claiming free transport and assembly.”
Their sense of responsibility goes beyond customers to the people and planet around them. The store recycles every piece of cardboard their furniture comes in, uses a water reduction filter to reduce water usage by 50% and LED lights to reduce electricity consumption by 80%. They also sponsor the yearly Kuwait Charity Run hosted by the Dasman Institute.
With plans for a video conference kitchen planner, possibilities of e-commerce and a new mobile application, the store is getting closer to home. Technology will put IKEA designers at your fingertips, and make them available to you any time, any where whichever way you want to reach them.
So here’s to 30 more years, 25 million more visits, 16 million more page views, 8 million more catalogues and 45 million more Swedish meatballs from our favorite and most inspirational furniture hub.