Can IKEA drive a used furniture movement?

Photo: IKEA
Sep 16, 2020

IKEA is testing its first second-hand store in Sweden as part of its goal to become a fully circular business by 2030.

The location, which will sell items from a nearby IKEA store that have been damaged in transit or storage and repaired, measures only ​​775 square feet, its smallest store.

In recent years, IKEA has launched numerous programs to address concerns that its affordable, flat-pack business model leads to overconsumption and waste. Its home country of Sweden has set an ambitious goal to be carbon neutral by 2045.

Under one program, old IKEA furniture can be traded in for store credit. The items are placed in the store’s bargain corner for resale at the same store-credit price. The chain is also testing a furniture rental program.

In early June, IKEA partnered with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to help guide the home furnishings industry transition to a circular economy. Said Lena Pripp-Kovac, chief sustainability officer, IKEA, at the time, “Our goal is to give products and materials a longer life through the four circular loops: reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing, and, as a last option, recycling. We believe this requires an innovative mindset, leadership, and collaboration.”

The resale market for apparel, footwear, handbags and other accessories has taken off in recent years, led by younger consumers’ desire for environmentally-responsible actions as well as affordability. While the secondhand apparel market is still facing some supply constraints due to COVID-19, according to The Wall Street Journal, demand remains healthy as concerns over the virus spreading on surfaces has lessened.

Nordstrom, Gap, Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Madewell are among some mainstream chains that have launched resale retail platforms, but the trend has been driven by online portals such as RealReal, ThredUp, Poshmark and Depop.

In the used-furniture space, Kaiyo, AptDeco, Chairish, 1st Dibs and Apartment Therapy’s Bazaar are some online sites that have gained traction. Kaiyo, launched last year, has committed to planting a tree through the National Forest Foundation for every order completed.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see a hot resale market for furniture developing similarly to apparel, handbags and other fashion items? What’s similar and different about furniture’s re-commerce appeal?

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"Why not? If there is a demand for used apparel then I anticipate less friction for used furniture. Great initiative by IKEA!"

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16 Comments on "Can IKEA drive a used furniture movement?"

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Mark Ryski

Yes, I do think that like other categories the resale market for furniture will become a hot and I especially like the moves that IKEA is making on this front. Notwithstanding the cost and challenges of shipping furniture, in most other ways furniture is ideal for resale – less concerns about personal hygiene like with used clothing.

Ben Ball

A lot of this will depend on the quality of the resold furniture. In my experience with three kids having gone through college, larger and more complex pieces from IKEA do not travel well and disassembly without damage is difficult. This seems like a long shot.

Oliver Guy

If you look at the success of initiatives like Freecycle you can really see the potential of such circular economy approaches. It has huge potential of marking IKEA out as it seems to be a first mover in this area. It also suggests that, given IKEA own the design for their products, they may design for refurbishment making it easier for them to “upcycle” and resell.

Neil Saunders

The secondhand market for furniture is growing, both in the U.S. and Europe. A lot of the market remains informal – consumers selling to other consumers – but retailers and resale platforms are increasingly moving in on the action. From the data we’ve gathered on this the trend looks sustainable, mostly because it is underpinned by a variety of drivers – environmental considerations, love of bargains, enjoyment of finding interesting products and so forth. However the volumes in furniture are significantly lower because purchasing frequency is lower – so those involved need to work much harder to grab consumers’ attention and get on their radars. Because of its marketing reach, IKEA should have less of a problem doing this than others.

Suresh Chaganti

Furniture, particularly the higher end, has great potential for the circular economy. Much like cars, the useful life is 5+ years, it doesn’t wear aggressively over years, and boredom sets in after a year or two.

Circular furniture sales will avoid all these. But it needs someone like IKEA because there is a lot of friction in the process – dismantling, cleaning, repackaging, shipping. If executed well, it makes great financial sense too.

Ian Percy

Two interesting segments today — one from Amazon about stuff hardly anyone can afford and one from IKEA about stuff almost everyone can.

This is a great initiative from IKEA. Their main advantage is that the credibility of their new furniture extends to the used. Like buying a used Lexus, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.

Art Suriano

Great idea, and kudos to IKEA for introducing this concept. Why not have an opportunity to buy used furniture? Often people replace furniture because they’re moving or they’ve gotten tired of it. I believe there will be a market for used furniture, and IKEA will be successful. Music stores have been selling used equipment for years with great success. Today we have all kinds of merchandise sold used, so why not furniture. Watch how, in a few years, other furniture stores will follow.

David Naumann
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
1 year 2 months ago

As evidenced by the growth in demand for used clothing, furniture is a logical product for reselling used. Craigslist has been a good source for used furniture but formalizing the process of quality assessments and providing a location for pickup at IKEA will be a hit for loyal IKEA shoppers. The biggest challenge is with larger items that aren’t easily transportable without taking the furniture apart. Also it probably isn’t feasible for consumers to buy online and ship to their home.

Dick Seesel

It’s not clear whether the furniture needs to be disassembled before taking it to a local IKEA store for resale. (Anybody who has put together IKEA furniture knows that doing the process in reverse would be challenging.) The subject raises a different issue — the perception that people trade up and away from IKEA as they “age away” from the brand. For those shoppers bringing their own sofas and coffee tables back to the store for resale, are they finding the next level of quality in the store so that IKEA can keep their business?

David Leibowitz

I’m not certain that “repairing goods damaged in transit” for sale qualifies for the “secondhand” definition. It’s a bit of a marketing stretch to take what used to be called “scratch and dent sale” and instead trade on the very big circular commerce trend that is defined by goods that have had a previous owner.

Semantics on sustainability aside, circular fashion will hit $64 billion in the next four years, and will continue to thrive. Since it will outpace fast fashion and retail growth overall, it stands to reason that other categories like toys, electronics and furniture may flourish as well.

Stephen Rector

What will be interesting to see with these re-commerce furniture platforms is the shipping costs and who pays for what. We already see that many apparel and accessory e-commerce platforms struggle with profitability due to logistics. Have these furniture platforms figured it out? Or are they even deeper in the hole? IKEA has the cash to do something like this – these other platforms sound like VC funded companies that could be challenged to actually make money.

Bindu Gupta

Why not? If there is a demand for used apparel then I anticipate less friction for used furniture. Great initiative by IKEA! They do have to ensure the repacking, disassembling and now sanitizing of the used furniture is on-point to give confidence to the buyers.

Rodger Buyvoets

Yes, I definitely see a hot resale market emerging. Especially given IKEA’s durable material and accessible products. Plus, IKEA has ambitious sustainability goals. More retailers should be striving towards the goal of re-commerce if they’re thinking around ways to make environmental promises to their customers.

Gary Sankary

With IKEA, it seems to me that much of their furniture wouldn’t hold up well to a resale market. I would suggest that the market for second-hand furniture is already hot based on the crowds I see at second-hand stores. I applaud them for doing this. It’s a great sustainability story for IKEA, and builds their brand in an area where they’re already strong.

Peter Charness

I have a masters in IKEA assembly, disassembly, move, and reassemble with this time with glue. While some of the products do well with that exercise, most of the particle board stuff does not. But if Craigslist shows anything, there’s a market for recycling furniture and I expect this will do well.

Craig Sundstrom

To be blunt, the perception is that most of IKEA’s offerings aren’t durable enough to make it to the “used-sellable” stage; so unless this is open to all makes, I see very little potential for it.
And honestly, I thought one of the main purposes of IKEA was to offer inexpensive NEW furniture, so people wouldn’t have to buy used … sort of a Kia of the living room. So “covering all the bases” or undermining your own business model? I’m not sure.

"Why not? If there is a demand for used apparel then I anticipate less friction for used furniture. Great initiative by IKEA!"

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