Business

Ikea to stop printing paper catalogue

After 70 years of printing, Ikea says it will no longer publish a paper catalogue of its products every year, and will instead go with an all-digital listing of its wares.

Move aims to acknowledge changing consumer behaviour and help reduce carbon footprint

Ikea's catalogue at one point had more than 200 million copies, but a shift to selling online has made it redundant. (Youtube)

After more than 70 years of printing, Ikea has decided to stop publishing its paper catalogue.

The Swedish furniture giant said in a news release Monday that it will focus on an all-digital listing of its wares.

"Times are changing," the company said in the statement. "Ikea is transforming its business model to become more accessible and digital, while embracing new ways to connect with more people."

At its peak in 2016, more than 200 million copies of the catalogue were printed every year around the world, in 32 different languages for the 50 different countries that have Ikea stores.

But media consumption and customer behaviours have evolved, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Customer behaviour and media consumption have changed, and the Ikea catalogue has been less used," the chain said. Online sales grew more than 41 per cent in Canada last year, the chain said. The chain had 22.9 million visitors to its stores last year, but almost eight times as many visits to its Canadian website last year — 178.4 million clicks.

The growing shift to buying and selling online has made the catalogue less useful to drive sales, so as a result, the 2021 catalogue, which was released this past summer, will be the last.

"As tribute, during fall 2021, the retailer will make a book available, filled with great home furnishing inspiration and knowledge," Ikea said.

The move do to away with the catalogue is in keeping with the chain's broader environmental push, which has seen the retailer try to reduce its carbon footprint, and start selling used furniture as a way to extend their life.

Ikea announced on Monday that the 2021 Ikea calendar will be the last one ever printed out. Here's a look at some other ones over the years (Ikea)

Retail analyst Farla Efros, president of HRC retail advisory, said the catalogue has an "iconic legacy," but the move nonetheless makes a lot of sense given the realities of retailing right now.

"When you look at retailers looking to cut costs I would say there's not many other places to go," she said. With so much selling moving online, "they probably didn't see as much of a correlation [to sales] as they did in the past."

Efros said there was similar noise and consternation when other iconic catalogues, such as Victoria's Secret, cancelled their print version in the past. Victoria's Secret stopped making its paper catalogue five years ago, when the company said it cost $150 million US to make about 300 million copies of it.

It wasn't worth their while, Efros said, and she suspects it likely isn't worth Ikea's either.

"If this pandemic has proven one thing, it's that it doesn't matter the age you are, you are capable of going online to buy something," she said. 

"The timing of this is right."

With files from the CBC's Meegan Read

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