Documentary series about IKEA, one of the world's most recognisable brands. This episode shows how IKEA are starting to open up their design headquarters to outside influences.
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Where are you going?
It's not there. There's the beginning of the shop.
I'm completely lost.
Love it or loathe it...
..the world's largest furniture shop has shaped the way we live.
As soon as you're in you can't get out, can you?
Spend and spend and spend, really.
Founded in 1943,
Ingvar Kamprad established IKEA as a global brand
before his recent death at the age of 91.
His unique approach to business still guides staff today.
I've always seen IKEA as more than a movement than a company.
For the first time in its 75-year history,
Sweden's most famous export
has granted our cameras worldwide access.
We filmed the £34 billion operation over the course of a year...
It's a big machine. It needs to be fed, yeah?
..following their rapid, global expansion...
We're just entering one of the biggest markets in the world.
I think that we're writing some history, actually.
..discovering what it takes
for a new product to make it to the shelves...
So, I wanted to do a cot and a coffin,
so I approached IKEA with that idea
and they just said, "No, you're joking."
..and learning the secrets of how it became one of
the largest and most influential companies in the world.
It is creativity versus commercialism
and finding that beautiful balance.
You can look upon it from the outside.
It looks like an ordinary office space,
but it's actually anything else than an office space.
It's the very heart of our product development and design facilities
Marcus Engman is IKEA's head of design.
He's in charge of a team
that produces thousands of prototypes each year.
Here is the prototypes that you work with right now,
each and every designer, by their desks.
And it's also things that they think is inspiring for them
when they sit down at the office space.
We have this gigantic studio.
We have like 4,500 square metres of just prototypes.
We also have our own factory...
..on site, inside of the office,
with skilled craftsmen and skilled machinery.
All of the stuff we can produce within IKEA
in different parts of the world we could produce here in our office.
Just another ordinary morning.
It's like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory
but what comes out of this is not chocolate,
it's actually great home furnishing.
Marcus works with an in-house team of just 12 designers,
who are under constant pressure to come up with new ideas
to keep IKEA's offering fresh.
I make dinosaurs with eyes and they look in funny ways, you know.
So, really angry, happy, bit worried.
Up, down. It also rotates.
And the tilting. Just like that.
I think this could be a carpet.
I wonder if this is some kind of side table also.
More like a pillow. I think it's quite an interesting piece.
Each week, Marcus is pitched new ideas by his team...
These are sort of in between a carpet and a...
..and he decides which go on to be developed.
The shapes of them are not that interesting.
They are a bit too...
..ordinary, to be honest.
In an attempt to bring in new customers,
Marcus has started collaborating
with a number of big names from outside the company.
They're working with audio giant Sonos to target tech enthusiasts...
..and with Virgil Abloh,
who designed Nike's highest profile trainer of 2017,
to bring in the millennials.
And this year, they're working with the enfant terrible
of British design, Tom Dixon, to target the high-end market.
Do you think if you don't collaborate or look to the outside,
-you'll get left behind?
Of course, that could always happen
with someone who's really big like us.
You know, you...
That you become kind of slow
and you think that what you do is truly great
because you're the biggest
and I think that's the scary thing, actually,
to be in that position.
Working with Tom means IKEA
won't be in full control of the design process.
Two strong personalities are meeting in this project.
What's he like?
He's a fun guy.
Could be kind of grumpy from time to time, too.
Here we are in our epicentre.
This is the basement workshop. Not quite as good as IKEA's.
Tom Dixon runs his own furniture business.
He produces low volume and sells at high prices.
IKEA hope the collaboration
will attract customers who would like to own one of his products
but can't afford one.
It's a bit more David and Goliath in my mind.
I always like the ideas of benign parasites, where, you know,
I can make a living out of this huge beast.
So, you know, tap into superior engineering,
extraordinary global sourcing, and it's just actually the beginning.
My first idea was, I wanted to do from the cradle to the grave.
So, I wanted to do a cot, and a coffin.
So, I approached IKEA with that idea and they just said,
"No, you're joking." But, in the conversation that followed,
we struck on this idea of working on a bed, because bed, for me,
is like the primary unit of life, or living, or furnishing.
Since the original conversation, Tom's idea has evolved.
-So, what is it?
-It's not a sofa bed, it's a bed sofa.
But it's really a platform for living.
For working, for sleeping, for...shagging.
It's a new way of thinking about furniture.
It's more permanent and more adaptable.
From this platform, I can then create a sofa by adding on
backrests and adding on cushions, an intrinsic coffee table.
Let's say a reading lamp like this.
All kinds of different things.
And then I can evolve the object
during my life to go back to being a bed if I have kids, for instance,
or I split up from my wife and I go back to single living.
It can be re-become what it was at the beginning.
Very much like a telephone.
These things are not static. You keep on buying apps for them.
In fact, you can see the kind of closeness between
this design and that design.
Encouraging people to customise one of their sofas
is a totally new concept for IKEA.
So, let's say we've got the frame.
I'm going to slide my 10mm bolt head down a groove
and that means I can just bolt on any component I like.
If I want to stick a side table, if I want to stick a lamp,
if I want to make the legs longer and all the rest of it,
all I need is a conventional bolt
that I can buy in any hardware store.
Tom plans to use IKEA's global manufacturing muscle
to make the bed as competitively priced as possible.
The frame will be made out of recycled aluminium,
which is more expensive than wood,
but is long-lasting and sustainable.
There is an association of disposability with IKEA
and it's certainly something I think about a lot, which is, well,
can I make something which can last a lifetime or several?
Marcus has given the challenge of managing the Tom Dixon project
to one of his team, James Futcher.
Just going through these detailed concepts from Tom.
We need to make some decisions on
how we're going to actually produce it,
and which one is the right one.
My role is kind of being diplomatic,
listen to Tom's views and how he would like it to be,
and then making it work with how we work at IKEA.
But working with a maverick designer like Tom is a leap into the unknown.
It is a fairly complicated project.
It's a way of constructing upholstery
that we have never done before.
Could we really change the way that sofas are made,
using aluminium as a base
and not having the typical wood structures with
nailing and the stapling?
How could we really industrialise
making sofas in a different way?
Because it's important to the world.
And, you know, we want to
make the world a little bit of a better place.
That's part of our ambition within IKEA.
I think it's about daring to try something different.
Let's see. It could be one of our greatest mistakes,
or it could be a really good thing.
Who to blame?
If it doesn't work, I would say it's James...
A lot of my responsibility.
-To make it work.
I do the fun, he has the hard job.
Of the many prototypes made in Almhult every year,
2,000 go on to be manufactured and distributed around the world...
where 19 stores contributed £1.8 billion to the company's
global profits last year.
Good morning, mate.
Despite such big numbers, UK sales actually slowed...
-..putting every store under pressure.
Morning, Lucy. All right?
Please attend he five past nine meeting at the checkouts.
How are you doing?
Water. I've cycled in and it's got past the zip.
It's a clean top.
No, it's a clean top.
It's not drool.
We've got amazing new products in store.
We've got some brand-new news that's just come in.
-Have a guess what they are?
Chairs, yeah. Function?
Little hooks. There are a pack of three and they're for £3.
Wow! How good are they?
With last year's figures not so strong,
the morning meetings are a chance to find out
how the year-on-year sales are looking.
Floor sales for yesterday, plus 23% on last year.
We are a little cog in a big IKEA machine
but, to the people who work in Warrington, we are IKEA Warrington.
-We're the number one.
-Have a fabulous day.
Today is extra special for Warrington.
It's 30 years since it became the first store in the UK.
We've got party poppers.
We've got, oh, air guitars.
I don't know how much he paid for those
but I suppose they've gone up with inflation.
Paul Fishwick is one of the UK's longest serving members of staff.
# I'm leaning on a lamppost at he corner of the street
# To watch a certain little lady go by. #
I started in May 1987...
..26 years of age,
and now I'm just an old man.
I actually had dark hair then, and a little porno 'tache,
which was the rage in the '80s.
A lot has changed in the last three decades, including music...
Bit of Billy.
Morning, Michael. Oh, love the shell suit!
-Come back round again.
-Where's the trousers?
But the IKEA concept remains largely the same as when it came to the UK.
They queued from the early hours
for a first glimpse into the Aladdin's cave alongside the M62.
Opening day started about seven in the morning.
We had the Swedish ambassador here and he cut the log
and the store was open. People came in.
People didn't understand the concept.
We are a little bit different
in that we set out to allow the customer to
serve themselves as much as possible.
People were asking us straight questions.
"Excuse me, where's the televisions?"
"Do you do a bumper for a 1981 Vauxhall Cavalier?"
And "Could you come with me,
"cos I need to for an hour while I pick my furniture?"
We said, "No, there's five of us. We can't come out."
Makes you very reflective.
What we do today, what we did in the past,
and how the customers understand IKEA more and how the concept...
..is accepted now.
Beautiful stroll on a wet afternoon in a dry building.
How can this be deemed unpleasant?
You're driving me mad.
And you're going to go and part with some hard cash.
Can I just get through there, please?
So, you're getting that thrill of purchasing.
If anyone's paying by card...
Retro retail, that's what we call it.
Having worked for the company for 30 years...
Are you looking for something?
..Paul has seen how IKEA's "pick, pay, and take it away" formula
can be frustrating for customers.
A2 is this area here. Yeah.
This is actual sort of instant gratification shopping.
Quite old-fashioned, isn't it?
Very old-fashioned but old-fashioned is good.
I'm going to have to get a man.
In the '80s, IKEA had a little bit of an arrogance about it.
We're making a lot of money, we're always busy,
we'll do the basic to sell as much as we can,
bulla bulla, stack it high,
and the result was we had 10% growth a year.
What's changed in IKEA in the past 30 years for you?
I think, for me, it's got that
we have to fight for the money a little bit more,
insomuch as we were always guaranteed, in the early days,
massive growth. Now we fight for growth.
What's going to happen in another 30 years?
And you see it already.
Online shopping's going through the roof.
I mean, look at Amazon -
they've got a big place down the road, twice the size of this.
No customer ever goes in there.
And all you do is pick your smartphone up,
go boop, boop, boop, pay with whatever method you're paying,
and within an hour or so it's outside, by a drone,
outside your back door.
Are you sure you're not being a miserable old man?
I'm a miserable old man, yes.
But am I a realist or am I being delusional?
The internet may have changed the way we shop...
..but IKEA's biggest marketing tool is still their catalogue.
Last year, 203 million copies were produced in 35 languages,
making it the largest publication in the world,
with more copies printed than either the Bible or the Koran.
Better to move this one up here and have this here...
-Standing out there.
-I don't know.
-Yes, I think so.
-Maybe resize this one a little bit.
Sara Blomquist is the creative leader on the catalogue,
responsible for producing one vision,
seen by millions around the world.
Let's try that.
Yeah. Good. Now we have one more spread to go.
It's such a massive production.
This is the IKEA catalogue.
It's so big.
It reaches so many people, and that's amazing,
because you affect so many people.
If that is not addictive, I don't know what is.
On the outskirts of Almhult,
in the largest photographic studio in northern Europe...
..an army of workers build hundreds of realistic rooms.
No, I haven't, actually.
There hasn't been any time today.
So I have no idea actually what's been happening.
It takes nine months and hundreds of millions of pounds
to complete the catalogue...
-..and it works.
In the month it's released, there's a significant bump in profits.
We're working over lunch.
Today, Sara's preparing for the most important photo of all -
the front cover.
The first thing that people see is the front cover.
So it's going to make a huge impact when it lands in people's mailboxes.
The front cover is the signal to everyone - the idea and the message
of what we want them to feel when it comes to IKEA.
Over the years, front covers have tended to be commercially driven
and focused on furniture.
Sara has a strong creative vision of what this year's image should be.
The idea with this year's catalogue cover is to show life, with people,
different ages, different origins, diversity...
So, how any people have you got?
We're not even sure how many people we'll show on the actual cover.
The cast are nothing without a set
and Sara's got just two days to get it ready.
Have we thought about a bit rugging up the texture a little bit?
Lived in. Yeah, that's a really good point.
We are just thinking about how we can make the room look
a little bit more lived in.
Instead of having new, fresh flowers from the shop,
they are on the way to get old but...it's nice things.
Once the shoot is over, Sara will travel to Malmo
to present a selection of the photos to a powerful group
known as the Catalogue Council.
The council are senior members of different branches from IKEA.
They have a lot of knowledge about a lot of things.
Last year, the council rejected the front cover
and made Sara start again.
Sometimes it's a challenge, obviously,
that we might have a little bit different opinions
about what is the best way of showing the IKEA catalogue.
This year, Sara's idea of focusing on people and not furniture
might not be an easy sell.
It might be almost impossible sometimes
to meet with the council when they want to be more commercial
and focused on sales figures and so on.
That's the reality we live in.
IKEA are one of the world's biggest consumers of wood...
..using 1% of the world's commercial wood supply each year.
Estimates suggest this is equivalent to 70 million trees.
With such an impact on the environment,
they are rethinking how to make their products more sustainable.
Aluminium is 100% recyclable.
So all of this is going in for re-melting.
James has come to a recycled aluminium factory in southern Sweden
to check on the progress of the Tom Dixon project.
You can see why we've decided to use aluminium.
I mean, it's super strong, it's lightweight, durable,
and it's really kind of making something different
with aluminium that hasn't been done before.
So, it's super exciting to see the starting point.
So, all of that aluminium's going to be melted down.
Once melted, the aluminium will be used to make a small number
of prototype frames.
It's so important that we get this part right.
If we don't get it right now,
we'll have made thousands and thousands of pieces
and it will be so hard to change.
Why is it bent at the end?
In the first place, you don't have the correct temperature.
When we start up the production,
you test to see that all dimensions are OK.
Here you can really see
all the things that we've spent time on designing.
You can see he channel where the upholstery parts will clip in,
-the two channels.
Screw slots. Here you will put a corner piece going here.
It's amazing now to see it come to life.
Very soon we'll be able to cut the panels
and actually put them together into a sofa to see how it works.
The prototypes will be shown
at a prestigious furniture festival in Milan,
where the design will be revealed to the world's press.
When you work with any designer, but especially Tom,
you want to do your best job.
And it is about making sure that you get everything right.
More than 1,000 miles away,
fabrics and cushions are prepared for the prototype.
Tom's design uses a sprung mattress,
similar to what's found in a standard bed.
I've just got something jammed.
At product development HQ, the Tom Dixon prototypes have arrived.
You need to actually get it into the groove,
and that's what we've worked out with the aluminium.
You can choose whether you sit on it, lay on it or sleep on it.
You can bolt on pieces, strap things on.
That's what's new for us.
We're letting the customer choose how they put it together.
Whether it's a sofa or a bed, it's up to you.
Although it has many functions,
Tom Dixon's clear which is the most important.
I want to make sure that it's a bed first,
and then you can make it into a sofa later.
Ultimately, lots of sofa beds are...
..a reasonably uncomfortable sofa with an even more uncomfortable bed
inside, whereas I wanted to make a great bed that would also make a...
..an amazing sofa, yeah?
You know, from a commercial perspective,
they sell much more beds than sofas, right?
So, it gives that base of...
..a successful item from the beginning
and then the sofa is almost like the cherry on top of the cake.
So, you know,
you've got to have the first things first and the first thing is the bed
and second thing is the sofa.
Back in Sweden, James is having a meeting with the business team
to discuss marketing the product.
It's really important that in the internal communications
that we stick with sofa, not call it sofa bed nor bed.
And I know that I just read a magazine from Tom,
where he said it's primarily a bed.
But it's been tested as a bed as well.
The frame? Yes.
But it's due to the mattress that we can't call it a bed sofa or a bed.
To be marketed as a bed, Tom's design would need to pass
stricter and more expensive safety tests.
Because it's due to there are different requirements
if it's a sofa, if it's a sofa bed or if it's a bed.
So, what we are fulfilling is the sofa requirements.
It's due to the mattress that we can't call it a bed sofa or a bed.
I honestly thought that that's why we've attached it to the slats
with the Velcro, that was to take that...
-To be able to call it a bed?
Not to call it a bed, no.
No, it's not.
With the Milan launch in just five weeks' time,
James has suddenly got an extra headache.
The only thing I'm a little bit nervous was about the bed thing.
-I didn't know that.
-We're not allowed to call it a bed.
We cannot make it in a picture with bed linen on top of it.
So, we have a challenge here.
With this project, we are really kind of testing the boundaries,
making a sofa that you can build up
but, at points, the way you build it up,
it does look like a bed and can be...
..a bed platform.
So, it's not a simple project.
That's what keeps me up at night.
The day of the front cover photo shoot has arrived.
Sara has pushed forward with her plan
to put a large, diverse group of people centre stage.
Maybe I'm so driven to work hard for this course,
because it's a course in a way.
It could be because of the background that I come from
a very, very poor situation in South Korea
and was adopted by a beautiful woman,
who took me in and gave me a home and became my mother.
And I think it matters so much
for me to bring out that feeling of belonging to people.
We'll just see if we can get people out and get them to move and then
do it a little bit more free-flowing, in a way.
Maria Berge used to do Sara's job
and has come along to help manage the shoot.
We had many sort of discussions about the world today and
everything's maybe not going that well for the world as a whole and we
can kind of be a little optimistic and happy about life at home.
Maria Berge and I are quite similar.
We are both kind of these adrenaline junkies.
We work 24/7.
Sometimes it's a little bit too much.
You feel like you're not in control of everything that happens but then
maybe you have to be a little bit, you know, out of control.
There's loads going on, isn't there?
Once you throw models in, it's going...
It'll be a challenge.
When all the models are coming in, it's going to be havoc, I would say.
It's going to be people running round all over the place
and then it's going to be the trick
to actually make it look like it's something...
..a place where you want to be and not feel like it's crowded and messy
and also that the furnitures that we're showing are visible.
The models are on set for hours and are encouraged to move around
the space as the photos are taken.
What the baby does, we can't really...
..coordinate, to be honest.
But we're happy. He's doing very well.
Right now, we're up to 1,300 and something photographs, shots.
Until now. But we are not finished.
So, it will be a lot.
-How many do you think?
-It could be 3,000 and something.
THEY SPEAK SWEDISH
The front cover is so important,
one of IKEA's most senior managers, Jesper Brodin,
has come to the set to see if Sara's idea is working.
Hi. there. Hi. How are you?
-We're just enjoying it actually.
Wonderful! It's good to see it come alive, right?
It's fantastic! This is like Christmas Eve in IKEA.
Yes, it's good to have you here.
It's, er, very much imitating life in a way.
It also reflects the values of diversity, of gender,
people of different ethnicities.
So, it actually has a political message as well.
We try to have one message
and make that attractive throughout the world.
Jesper may like the idea but, in IKEA,
decisions are often made democratically
and Sara still needs to convince the Catalogue Council
that her vision is the best way to sell the company to the world.
I would fight for anything that I think is important.
This council meeting is like a hen house sometimes.
It's a total chaos.
To actually get to agree on things, you have to be very persuasive.
IKEA's head of design, Marcus, has flown to Milan
for the most important furniture festival in the world.
We're going to Via Ventura now, which is in Lambrate,
where we have the big IKEA exhibition.
-Do you normally travel in cabs?
-No. A cab is not the IKEA way.
There was no bus, so we had to take a cab.
You know, everything you do that costs more money,
at the end of the day, that's going to hit the customer.
That's partly why I work here, actually.
I've always seen IKEA as more of a movement than a company.
The festival attracts thousands of designers, journalists
and social influencers,
and it's where Marcus and Tom Dixon
are revealing their prototype to the world's press.
I really love it. You know, I think it's so nice.
It's quite impressive. The thing I like here is also that it's so many
variations to this system.
Despite Tom insisting it's primarily a bed,
IKEA are pushing ahead with their plan to market it as a sofa.
It's come out good, really good.
Excited. I love that you can really see all of the possibilities.
It's a landscape of sofas.
Hopefully, Tom really likes it.
Hey, how are you?
Really well. How are you?
Tom has just flown in from London.
He's not aware of how IKEA are displaying his design.
I like to come when it's too late for me to affect anything because
otherwise I just get in the way.
Hi, Johan, how are you?
I think it's quite confusing, the way we're showing it.
So, I hope people are able to decode it.
Um, there's so many sofas around in so many colours,
it's a bit hard to know what you're looking at, really.
There's no beds.
They're pushing it into a non-bed feeling,
and the bed is the basic departure point.
So, there's going to have to be a lot of explanation.
The presentation of the design
is not the only thing Tom has a problem with.
I just think we should move this one forward.
They can't decide which of the sofas, that isn't a bed, to sit on.
We need to be in the middle.
Wouldn't it be good to have two of those?
One there and one here and then, you know?
It is kind of each side challenging each other.
-I think we've got to be...
-Or should we be a little bit like this?
Tom wants some friction, maybe, tries to get some friction in there,
but I think Marcus is quite good at giving it back,
just as much as Tom will give it out.
There's James Futcher. Oi! How is it?
Tried to fit in with the sofas.
The event is a sell-out,
with more than 250 journalists keen to see the design.
Will I ever be ready to go?
What's happened to Marcus? Has he legged it?
Yes. He's sitting there.
Despite IKEA displaying it as a sofa, once on stage,
Tom takes the chance to tell the world what the design really is.
We wanted to make something which had a degree of permanence
but adaptability. So that was the departure point.
The platform is the bed,
but the bed can equally be a sofa or something else.
You know, maybe you've got a student bed that turns into a family sofa,
that eventually turns into a child's bed again.
Like, I kind of obsessed about beds because beds are such an important
part of furnishing generally,
and probably the only piece of furniture you'd really need.
Tom's continued insistence that it's a bed and not just a sofa
means IKEA have to test it as a bed
before it can go on sale around the world.
We need to adapt our designs to the regulations all over the world
for different species of furniture, and there is...
The way we test sofas is different from how we test beds.
So, we started off testing it as a sofa,
we haven't tested it as a bed yet.
After a successful photo shoot,
Sara is travelling to meet with the Catalogue Council.
She'll need to persuade them to break with tradition
and back her idea of having a front cover
that is more about people than furniture.
Even if they are, you know,
cluttering up the room and covering the furniture,
it's something about being able to see, this is life,
people are using our furnitures,
and I hope we're not just going to end up
with a cover showing a beautiful, empty room set,
because that would be such a failure.
The council will painstakingly deliberate
over whether the front cover should be
sending the world a message, or just selling furniture.
I always go into these meetings
and I kind of never know what to expect, in a way.
They can be a tough crowd sometimes, but they do it with all...
..you know, the best intentions in the world.
OK. So, just let us jump straight into the biggest thing
we have right now, then. The cover. I think, as I said,
a room is not just any room without the people.
It's personal, it's human, and it's also a moment of life.
The way it's very lived-in actually reaches out and talks to you.
This is the most people.
-This is the most people we have.
We would love to be able to have everyone in, actually, in the cover.
When you see the people in the picture,
then you turn to this one without, you suddenly feel how empty it is.
-Or very beautiful.
I believed beforehand that as many as possible,
as big a party as possible, that would be fantastic.
But when I saw this one, I got, "Hey, hang on..."
We have made a room here where you can see yourself in it.
Whenever it's not clear, whenever I have to look twice, yeah,
then I'm getting disturbed.
And it was two things.
One, what is the baby doing?
Do I see that on the first-hand or not?
And if I have to look twice, it disturbs me, personally.
The second one is this cushion.
This cushion is very hard to understand what it is -
this pencil cushion.
You cannot even realise, what is that?
And that, as an observer, that disturbs me a lot, yeah?
Do we need to remove all this disturbances, that it's very clear?
Sometimes, when something disturbs, it's not always bad.
I would say that I strongly recommend us
to go with life in this room,
because this is also what makes IKEA stand out.
You can't find any other cover actually working with rooms
that does it the way we do.
Personally, I would go for the one without.
I think this is the boldest, and thereby the strongest.
And if I had to choose,
I would actually go for this one without people,
because in some of the others, I get the feeling of the construction.
Don't feel real that this would actually happen in a home,
as it's set up. The people disturbs me.
-I didn't find it so commercial.
But then, I'm from the old school.
Of course I'm a little bit disappointed now, if it's...
It tended to sound like we are maybe moving towards
an empty room set.
And, for me, it's a little bit... a generic solution...
..that's not as interesting as it could be.
It is creativity versus commercialism, and finding that...
A final decision will be made in two weeks' time.
It's like reality, only virtual.
To help the store celebrate turning 30,
Paul has had a delivery from IKEA headquarters.
This is a VR experience and you can go back in time with IKEA,
see the products, and it tells you about the products,
and it's very, very good. It's the future, like garlic bread.
Oh, yeah. Brilliant.
Ready to travel through time.
I'm in a room that's 1980s.
It's got pictures of, like, Yaz
and women with lots of make up and high hair.
There's a Billy bookcase.
There's an old black-and-white portable TV.
Oh, and a wire chair here.
I think I'm in the '90s.
Oh, a kitchen! It's misted up now, I can't see.
It was great. It's made my eyes sweat.
I think it's all that time travel that does it.
But IKEA recognise they can't live in the past,
and are embracing technologies of the future.
I'm just adding sofas everywhere.
Look, you've got the new app, the IKEA app. What do you think?
This app allows customers to place
3D images of furniture in their homes.
You're going to be on this desk in the future?
There's going to be so many questions about it.
Old people like me are going to come in and say,
"My augmented reality's playing up. Can you sort it out for me, please?"
-I've got 75 sofas in my living room!
Hiya. Would you like to have a go on our augmented reality app?
You press that plus button there, that adds furniture.
Great stuff. You're better at it than me.
-That's pretty cool.
-Oh, you're good at this.
30 years' time, what do you think this store will look like then?
I think everything will be virtual. You won't even need one of these.
It could be the IKEA is just a meatball shop.
You sit and eat your meatballs and chips, or your fish and chips,
and that might be the IKEA store.
Once the trolley is full with meatballs, then we will cover them.
Last year's meatball sales
helped IKEA make £1.7 billion from catering,
making them the tenth largest food retailer in the world.
The things that customer come for is the meatballs.
Do you know how any meatballs we sell throughout the year, global?
One billion meatballs.
-So, that's quite big, hey?
Originally from Poland,
Simon Rabinski has worked for IKEA for 11 years.
So, you, as a chef,
your two main dishes that you will cook throughout the day
-will be meatballs and...
-Meatballs and fish.
Very good. Very good. We're learning, we're learning.
He's just landed a job as food manager at a new store
that's due to be built in Sheffield.
When I came to England, I didn't speak much English,
and IKEA invest a lot of money in me, so they sent me to college,
they sent me to university.
And all they expected from me is the commitment and hard work.
-Thank you very much.
It's now 11 years and I'm still here,
smiling, because I like what I'm doing. Definitely.
-We need two, right?
-They're here, chef.
Simon's hoping his 11 years' hard work will be rewarded
with a trip to Almhult,
the small town where IKEA was founded by Ingvar Kamprad in 1943.
OK. Happy to go?
The company pay for staff from around the world
to make the pilgrimage.
I must go. Whatever happens, I must go.
Because I have to go.
Cos I heard so many stories, I just want to go and feel it.
Having missed out three times in the past,
Simon is having to battle it out with the other managers,
who will work in the Sheffield store when it opens.
And, for me, it will be kind of like another step that I made it.
These managers are incredibly keen
to go to see the house where Ingvar was born.
They want to see the museum.
They want to get excited, to say, "This is where it all began."
I went and I was very proud, and I met him, as well.
Amazing guy. So, I can't share how that made me feel,
but I've got that with me, inside me.
Have we looked at people that maybe have been before and taken them off?
-How long in your career did you go?
-Er, after five years.
Like I said in the beginning, this is, for me, a privilege to go.
Team, we have to break it. It's gone four o'clock.
Thank you very much for what you've done so far.
They just want to go.
I understand why they want to go. I'd like them to go.
But, in IKEA, everything has a cost, and we're cost conscious.
With no immediate decision, Simon will have to wait to see
if he's made a strong enough case to go to Almhult.
I hope I will go, finally, after my third attempt.
A very exciting time.
Almhult is very different because it's hard to make friends outside
of IKEA, because, um, everybody you know works in IKEA.
James Futcher has worked for IKEA all over the world,
moving to Almhult 11 years ago.
I've never been anywhere like it. It's kind of IKEA Town.
IKEA... This is the IKEA catalogue.
This is where the catalogue is produced
for all the countries all over the world.
Here we have the IKEA Hotel.
Here's the museum, which is the old IKEA store,
the first, original store.
We go past the new IKEA.
I think it takes some getting used to when you've moved
from a different country.
It's sometimes quite hard to get away from IKEA.
With Tom Dixon continuing to call his design a bed,
IKEA are having to carry out a new round of safety tests.
We're hoping to make sure that the sofa will pass the tests
and the requirements to fulfil it being a bed.
So, it's a lot of kind of touch-and-go
and making sure that we can pass
those tests to make sure that it's safe if it's used as a bed.
I have a gas flame.
Although they're sticking to their plans to only market it as a sofa,
they're now carrying out flammability bed tests.
And now we wait for two minutes.
It must pass the safety test
for each of the 49 countries it will be sold in.
It should self-extinguish within two minutes,
and it has been a minute and a half now.
I don't think it's going to extinguish.
Any failure is bad news for James.
It means they have to change the materials before retesting,
which may increase the cost
and delay the product going on sale around the world.
A decision's been made, and a group of managers from Sheffield
are on a pilgrimage to Almhult.
Do whatever you want, so just chill out and then we'll see.
-We have an hour.
Food manager Simon is lucky enough
to have made it on the trip to the company's spiritual home.
I want to go and see it, you know?
I think everyone was saying to me, "Go now internet,
"there's so many pictures."
-No. You've got to... Don't spoil it.
-Experience it for the first time.
I don't want to. Exactly.
I want to walk through this train and see it and go, "Ah!"
I just know the prospect of it is so exciting.
And I guess a lot of people today will have this,
when you meet your future wife,
you had these butterflies, you know...
We're slowing. We're slowing.
Have you? You got goose bumps, Sean?
Have you? He has as well.
This feels special, doesn't it?
You can see the blue, guys.
Was that it? Let's go. Let's go. Come on. Let's go.
The trip is a chance to see where Ingvar Kamprad started IKEA
and learn about the values he founded the company on.
Down you come, down you come.
To understand the cultures and the values that we live by every day,
and everything what we do,
this is where I hope I will see all of it.
Hello, everyone. We have Ingvar, welcoming you.
Born in 1926,
Ingvar Kamprad began his business career at just five years old,
selling matches to locals.
He fuelled a furniture revolution
when he started selling flat pack in 1956.
In this backwater of the world,
it was still a really shitty area.
And when they started to farm, they had to clear the stones.
They had a really tough time.
And they used the stones to build stone walls...
..which served a purpose.
And you solve the problems and the challenges
and you create the stone wall of today, which is the IKEA brand.
And we're still building it together,
because that was the spirit that
these people had to live by - togetherness.
Next, the team head to a building called Tillsammans.
Tillsammans means togetherness, and it's a chance for a bit more...
..togetherness. THEY CHEER
All the way there.
The displays are focused on how IKEA operates as a global business.
One in particular, about how products are given the same name
around the world, has caught the group's attention.
I'm a little bit bowled over.
We've just been having a look at the words,
because obviously people say they're Swedish words,
but they don't translate in every country.
So, there was a product that may have been called Prick,
but it can't, because it's a slang expression in the UK,
so it's gone in the bin.
Again, can't go in.
The team head to a room dedicated
to the book Ingvar Kamprad wrote in 1976,
The Testament Of A Furniture Dealer.
-No, I need one.
It's where he wrote down the values he expected his workers to adopt.
Have you got Portuguese?
No matter where in the world,
IKEA still expects all staff to live by these beliefs.
Thank you. Thank you.
A lot of the stuff that we got today,
it was just like, "Look at this!"
-To be honest, to be honest, he is a genius.
If you have to remember one thing from the trip,
what would you remember?
It's the togetherness. It's completely that, is what I'm taking.
I mean... It's something similar to me but, you know,
you almost can imagine...
..that one of the stone have your name.
I think that's what Ingvar realised.
How co-workers are important to all this, um, expansion,
to the success of the company.
Without the small stones, the wall will just collapse.
Ah, it's full of people.
-Are you finishing?
-Oh, great. Thanks!
James is updating Marcus with news about the Tom Dixon project.
We've passed all the seating tests,
we've passed all the sleeping tests in all countries,
unfortunately, except in the US.
And why's that?
It's quite complicated when you need to make something
that is for seating and sleeping.
So we are going to do a retest. But there is a consequence
that it won't be on time for the global launch,
so, a sale start later,
but we are doing everything we can do to get it as soon as possible.
-So, how did this happen then,
because you started a year ago?
Yeah, I think it's been very complicated for the team.
Is it a bed, is it a sofa?
We took on something which had a little bit of a bigger
learning curve than a normal product development,
and then from time to time you pay the price for that.
That's good thing of not being on the stock market,
that we can invest in crazy stuff.
-Does Tom know?
-Yes, Tom knows.
-He knows about the delay?
-He loves it.
-No, they're not happy!
I'm kind of bored of talking about it, actually, and so...
..if I have to go to the US in six months to talk about it again,
after I've talked about it in Europe,
I'm going to run out of things to say, you know?
In order to make sure the product can go on sale in all 49 markets
at once, IKEA will now have to pass a retest for the American market.
What impact does that have, not going out in the US?
Well, it makes it that then you start having regional launches
rather than using this massive power of IKEA to be global,
and doing it one time.
The final decision about the catalogue front cover
has been made...
..and 203 million copies are being printed.
Of course I am a little bit, you know, disappointed.
I wanted to have more life in this picture.
It's not the outcome Sara wanted,
but she's already thinking about next year's catalogue.
I have no idea if there will be people on the front cover next year.
We will all fight for it and I will be part of that fight.
We believe that we have to have an emotional connection with the world.
We want to be, you know, more than just a furniture dealer,
and I think that is the most important message of all.
Drum roll please, everybody, drum roll for the catalogue.
With the focus very much on furniture,
the catalogue lands in stores around the world at the same time.
WORKERS DRUM ON TABLES
Why is there so much anticipation
from the co-workers about the catalogue?
It's sort of like a yearning to see what's in it,
what the special offers are, and, yeah, they want to see all that,
and it's nice to have a book.
I mean, we've had books in the store for 30 years,
since the 1987 catalogue.
It's the biggest marketing investment we ever, ever will have,
so, just think about how powerful the catalogue is, guys.
-What do you think?
I love the colour scheme, lovely and bright.
How long have you been shopping at IKEA?
-Since it was built.
-Since it was opened.
-Seriously? From the '80s?
-I've been here from the beginning.
-Well, I'm glad you like it.
-Thank you very much.
-And let's have another 30 years, eh?
What do you think of the front cover?
Er, it's in-your-face.
-It's a bit in-your-face?
-Does it inspire you?
Not really, I don't know.
It's not really my thing. There's too much going on here.
It just looks like there's stuff everywhere.
I guess you can imagine it's lived in,
is what they were going for, but...
-..not for me.
-I think it would look better with people.
-Yeah, I think people.
-Or pets or something.
Yeah, maybe pets, animals. Everyone loves animals.
It does look a bit busy. I mean, a lot of customers have said that.
It does look like the house has been burgled.
-Should I not say that?!
Honest and transparent, that's IKEA.
Yeah, it's exciting now, to see how it looks,
get the first reaction from the customers.
It's really exciting. A little bit nervous.
James is assembling the bed sofa in an IKEA store
for the very first time.
Shall we find somewhere that we can may be put it here
-and put all the covers on?
-Yeah, I thought maybe here.
It looks nicer than I thought it would look here.
It looks kind of quite elegant and sophisticated.
It's quite different from the typical sofas we have.
-Do you think it's comfortable?
-Yes. It's very comfortable.
Really surprisingly comfortable.
Having initially failed the safety test for North America...
We're going to go to the bedroom department to get some bedding.
..Tom Dixon's design has passed the retest.
We take one of those and the pillow set,
I think that would be really cool.
In all of those 419 stores around the world,
we can now talk about it as a sofa and as a bed,
and that's what Tom wanted to do, Marcus and me wanted to do.
You know, it's a great relief.
Put the pillows down.
You take all the cushions off and, you know, here's a bed.
It looks quite inviting. I could jump in.
It is a sofa, it is a bed.
It's a multifunctional platform unit
that you choose what you want to use it for.
Tom's happy, I'm happy, Marcus is happy,
and I hope the customers will be happy.
Ah, it's really comfy.
It looks very modern, as well.
Yeah, I like it.
Yeah, I think it would be something to buy, especially for my kid.
I mean, it can be something that I start out with a bed
and then I can add on. Maybe it's something for you?
The delays and retesting
mean the idea of a low-cost piece of furniture is slipping away.
Each country will decide how much they sell it for...
It's quite nice.
..but the recommended price has gone up from £530 to £700.
It's a relief.
And now that it's safe to be released,
the bed sofa will go on sale around the world.
We made it.
It's going to be in the stores.
We produce a lot of furniture for IKEA.
Oh, smoke comes from that machine.
Failure is not really an option for us right now.
Look at that. There is no way in the world you think
that's going to open. Not this August. You're thinking next August.
Hannah's got this idea of sticking a finger in each vase
to make it different. That's really crazy.
Uncover the mysteries of flat pack, everyday design and brand names.
To find out more go to...
..and follow the links to the Open University.
IKEA is not like any other company - the Swedish furniture retailer is driven by a powerful philosophy, to 'create a better everyday life for the many people', and with 900 million customers a year, this series goes behind the scenes to find the secret to its global success. With unprecedented access to IKEA's design studios, factories, test labs and stores over the course of a year, this series gets to know the people who work for the famous company, and explores how they are opening up and massively expanding around the world.
In this first episode, we see how IKEA are starting to open up their design headquarters to outside influences. Tom Dixon - the 'enfant terrible' of British design, has been invited to collaborate on a new bed-sofa - but with deadlines looming and the world's furniture press watching, neither he nor IKEA fully agree what the product should be. We follow the production of the famous catalogue, where Sara Blomquist is in charge of devising the 'perfect' front-cover image. Can she unite different voices in the company and create an image that will be seen by millions of people around the world?
In the UK, we see how changing consumer habits and online shopping is making IKEA think about new technology such as augmented reality. Having been with the company since the Warrington store opened 30 years ago, Paul Fishwick is trialling the new tech with customers in store. Finally, we follow a group of new managers from Sheffield, who are making the pilgrimage to Almhult, the small Swedish town where the company started 70 years ago - to understand for themselves the unique culture and values that is at the heart of the organisation.