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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Person of the week
Ingvar Kamprad and his furniture empire
    2018-February-2  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

INGVAR KAMPRAD, the IKEA founder who turned a small-scale mail order business into a global furniture empire, died at 91 Jan. 27. The company announced his death a day later.

“He will be much missed and warmly remembered by his family and IKEA staff all around the world,” the company said.

Kamprad’s life story is intimately linked to the company he founded at age 17 on his family’s farm.

His work ethic, frugality and down-to-earth style remain at the core of its corporate identity today. But his missteps in life, including early flirtations with Nazism, never rubbed off on IKEA, one of the world’s most recognizable brands.

Kamprad formed the company’s name from his own initials, the first letters of the family farm, Elmtaryd, and the parish of Agunnaryd where it is located. It’s in the heart of Smaland, a forested province whose people are known in Sweden for thrift and ingenuity. Kamprad possessed both.

Later in life, his name often appeared on lists of the world’s richest men, but he never adopted the aura of a tycoon. He drove a modest Volvo and dressed unassumingly. In a 1998 book that he co-authored about IKEA’s history, he described his habit of visiting vegetable street markets right before they closed for the day, hoping to get a better price on their goods.

Born on March 30, 1926, Kamprad was a precocious entrepreneur who sold matchboxes to neighbors from his bicycle. He found that he could buy them in bulk very cheaply from Stockholm, and sell them at a low price but still make a good profit. From matches, he expanded to selling fish, Christmas tree decorations, seeds, and later ball-point pens and pencils.

Kamprad soon moved away from making individual sales calls and began advertising in local newspapers and operating a makeshift mail-order catalog. He distributed his products via the local milk van, which delivered them to the nearby train station.

In 1950, Kamprad first introduced furniture into his catalog. The furniture was produced by local manufacturers in the woodlands close to his home. After the positive responses he received, he soon decided to discontinue all of the other products and focus on low-priced furniture.

Since then, the IKEA concept — keeping prices low by letting the customers assemble the furniture themselves — offers affordable home furnishings at stores across the globe.

In 1994, Swedish newspaper Expressen reported that Kamprad had contacts with Swedish fascist leader Per Engdahl in the 1940s and 1950s. In a letter to IKEA employees, Kamprad admitted that he once had sympathies for the far-right leader and called it “a part of my life which I bitterly regret.”

In the 1998 book, he gave more details about his youthful “delusions,” saying he had been influenced as child by his German grandmother’s strong support for Hitler. His paternal grandparents emigrated to Sweden in the 1890s.

“Now I have told all I can,” he said at a book release ceremony at an IKEA store in suburban Stockholm. “Can one ever get forgiveness for such stupidity?”

The book also contained details about his struggles with alcohol and his successes and failures in business.

IKEA celebrates its Swedish heritage: the company’s stores are painted blue and yellow like the Swedish flag and serve meatballs and other traditional Swedish food. But Kamprad’s relationship with his homeland was sometimes complicated.

He moved to Switzerland in the late 1970s to avoid paying Swedish taxes, which at the time were the highest in the world. He decided to return home only after his wife Margaretha Kamprad-Stennert died in 2011.

The estate inventory filed to Swedish tax authorities in 2013 confirmed that the couple lived comfortably, but hardly in opulence. They had two cars — a 2008 Skoda and a 1993 Volvo 240. Kamprad’s personal wealth was established at 750 million kronor (US$113 million), a considerable amount, but far from the multibillion-dollar sums attributed to him on world’s-richest lists compiled by Forbes and others.

IKEA officials have said such lists, which compared his wealth to that of Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, erroneously considered IKEA’s assets as his own. IKEA is owned by a foundation that Kamprad created, whose statutes require profits to be reinvested into the company or donated to charity.

The estate inventory showed that Kamprad donated more than US$20 million to philanthropic causes in 2012 alone.

In June 2013, Kamprad announced that he would retire from the board controlling the IKEA brand as part of moves to hand responsibilities over to his son, Mathias.

Kamprad and his first wife Kerstin Wadling adopted a daughter, Annika. In the 1960s, Kamprad married his second wife, Margaretha (1940–2011), whom he met when she was 20 years old. They had three sons: Peter, Jonas and Mathias.

Things to know about IKEA

Thriving business

The company has 412 locations in more than 40 countries including China.

Its sprawling stores with their tortuously winding routes have continued to thrive in an era of hurried online shopping.

Analysts say IKEA has been successful in not only getting shoppers to linger for hours, but also getting them to come back, over and over.

The retailer has also been successful in creating a shopping destination. Traditional furniture stores may line up all of their sofas in one section and beds in another, but IKEA displays items by room, so shoppers can see how different pieces might look together.

In 2016, the company had annual sales of US$37.6 billion, making it the world’s largest furniture retailer. Its success has also given way to a cottage industry of businesses that specializes in assembling furniture.

IKEA itself has got into the fray: in September, it bought TaskRabbit, a start-up that provides contractors odd jobs, to appeal to a generation of time-strapped consumers who want IKEA furniture without the hassle of assembling it.

IKEA’s value has tripled since 2000 and is now worth US$18.5 billion, according to global brand consultancy Interbrand’s 2017 rankings – two spots behind fellow Swedish giant H&M.

Trouble with taxes

Despite his enormous success, Kamprad’s modest spending habits bordered on the obsessive and in 1973 he fled Sweden’s higher tax structure for Denmark, before seeking even lower taxes in Switzerland.

He returned to Sweden in 2014, paying 6 million kronor (US$760,000) in taxes. Most of his wealth was held in other assets.

Last year, the European Commission announced that it had launched an investigation into IKEA’s tax deals in the Netherlands.

IKEA insists that it complies fully with tax regulations.

Bestselling catalogue

First distributed in 1951, IKEA now sends 250 million copies of its catalogue to more than 50 markets in 30 languages, putting it alongside the Bible as one of the world’s most popular books.

The 2018 edition was sent to 3 million households in Sweden, which has a population of 10 million.

IKEA sparked controversy in 2012 when women and girls were airbrushed out of pictures in its Saudi Arabian catalogue, prompting a strong response from Swedes, who pride themselves on egalitarian policies and a narrow gender gap.

Billy, the star bookcase

IKEA’s revolutionary self-assembly model was conceived in 1956 after an employee suggested table legs be removed so the package would fit into a car.

Using the same principle, the iconic Billy bookcase comes in a flat pack along with an assembly guide and the necessary tools.

Designed by Gillis Lundgren in 1979, tens of millions of Billy bookcases have been bought — and IKEA still sells one every 10 seconds.

Meatballs

The food portion of IKEA’s empire, which includes in-store restaurants and grocery stores, generated 1.8 billion euros (US$2.23 billion) in sales last year.

The company’s trademark item is traditional Swedish meatballs, but it also serves 100 million cups of coffee each year.(SD-Agencies)

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