IKEA selling used furniture? I was gob-smacked for a few reasons: I did not know anyone bought used IKEA furniture; it was surprising that IKEA furniture lasted long enough to transfer to a new owner; and the whole point of purchasing furniture from the big blue and yellow store was to have that sleek modern furniture for a low price, with the added bonus of a lunch at the famous IKEA Café, while hoping that no one you know would see you there.
IKEA has received a fair share of criticism over the years, but there is evidence that the furniture giant is making improvements on the sustainability front. The company has experimented with renewable energy, is phasing out flame retardants in its furniture, and in Sweden it is making a counterintuitive business move: customers in its home country can now sell the store’s used furniture on IKEA’s Swedish site.
According to Peter Agnefäll, CEO of IKEA Sweden, the launch of the used furniture marketplace was a step in proving that IKEA is serious about its environmental stewardship. Members of the company’s customer loyalty program, IKEA Family, can post and sell their items for free. Membership is free, and to that end, Agnefäll says the company does not expect to make any money from this service. He also expects the program to take some time, but in the long run, IKEA does not expect its sales to suffer. At the same time, he dismissed any assertions that IKEA was trying to establish a foothold in the second-hand goods industry, a valid concern to some after last year, when the company had a naming rights issue with a used furniture clearinghouse, ILoveIkea.se. After IKEA took legal action, the site changed its name to Billyandfriends.se.
The site launched last weekend while IKEA’s locations in Sweden held flea markets at the stores’ parking lots. For now IKEA is only offering the online swap meet in Sweden, but if the service catches on, other countries could see a similar online service in the future. The move is a bold one for IKEA, and for consumers, a smart one. With all the talk about eco-friendly furniture and other products with a “sustainability” stamp, there is one fact that is true of many products. Whether the item is a pair of jeans, sofa, car, or house, the most eco-friendly option is often the one that has already been manufactured or built. If less waste is going to a landfill, this is a great start.