Thursday, October 27, 2011

No More Ikea

Ikea has always been a great place when you live abroad. They sell Swedish foods and drinks, candy and chocolates that are hard or impossible to find elsewhere. We go there every few months just to get pickled herring, cheese, flatbread, liquorice and other stuff.

And of course, this being Ikea you never buy just what you set out to do; we also come home with extension cords, drinking glasses, a new lamp… And you get inspired when you walk through the store. We bought our couch in Ikea, as well as Ritsukos new desk. In both cases we saw them when we were just there for some food, and ended up returning a few weeks later to get them specifically.

No more, unfortunately. Ikea has decided that they are better off selling their own-brand things rather than the popular Swedish brands they used to carry. Most specifically Swedish things are gone: the cheeses, the pickled herring, the bread, the liquorice, Kexchocklad and Dumle. What is left is generic-brand stuff, often not even made in Sweden, and indistinguishable from what we can pick up easier and cheaper in the supermarket at home.

So, no reason for us to visit Ikea now. And as we'll no longer browse in the stores, I doubt we'll be buying any much furniture or home goods from there anymore either. We have plenty of other furniture stores around here after all, with any conceivable style and any price level we'd ever want. From Japanese blogs it seems we're not the only ones; the reaction has been surprisingly negative even among people with no emotional connection to these particular goods.

Seems like a pretty dumb misstep on the part of Ikea to me. I may be wrong of course; the greater profit on own-brand generic foods may more than make up for the small loss of business that results. I don't think so, though. The connection to Sweden is an important part of their brand, and diluting it even further — they haven't been a Swedish company for many years — risks damaging themselves far beyond the loss of a few expats crying over their lost mustard herring.

Now the sole remaining question is where to buy or order pickled herring in Osaka. Anybody know?


  1. Looks like an interesting business opportunity for an ambitious bilingual importer. Svenska Institutet/Swedish Institute should take note as well.

    I'll miss freaking out old aquaintances with weird fish shaped liqourice though.

  2. Actually, the story may not end there. Things Are Afoot. I'll post again about this soon, I think. Your Salta Fiskar may be safe :)

  3. I have some links to swedish food web shops you can order from, if you get a craving before anything else is fixed. Found them when I was living in ireland.

    But I agree, the generic stuff makes no sense to me and looks cheap. I use to be able to buy stuff at ikea to bring as a novel gift to people, because it's the original brands of sweden, but I would never buy the generic stuff, I'd rather order online for the propper stuff.

    In the swedish ikea, the generic foods look even more pointless, as they are selling stuff like tea, choclate and meatballs. I might buy generic chocklate (but makes no difference compared to any other brand, as it's not Mmmmarabo) but I'd have to be desperate not to buy mamma scans meatballs or somethign similar. No way would I buy generic. I'd rather make them myself.

  4. btw, it was Melinda who wrote the last comment. :P cant be bothered signing in.

  5. Thanks, Melinda! Please do post or send links if you have them.

    First, they will have pickled herring, though their own brand, and of course it'll be unlikely to be produced in Sweden. We'll see if it's any good.

    It seems that a lot of the good brand-name goods (kexchoklad and tunnbröd for me) are still available in store even though they no longer list it on the web. So we'll hit the store in Kobe tomorrow and buy another batch of stuff before it disappears.

    As you say, a lot of the generic brands at Ikea simply doesn't make any sense. We live in a city of ten million people; we have more kinds of local and imported chocolates, cheeses, cookies and so on than you could imagine within a few minutes walk from home. Going all the way to Ikea just to buy some generic product is just dumb.


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