Ikea ‘erases’ women from Saudi catalogue

Swedish furniture retailer Ikea has removed out all the women from the version of the company's famed catalogue to be distributed in Saudi Arabia, prompting a stern reaction from Sweden's trade minister.

Ikea 'erases' women from Saudi catalogue

Nearly 200 million copies of Ikea’s forthcoming catalogue will be printed in 27 languages for distribution in 38 countries.

And the catalogues will be nearly identical, save for those printed for distribution in Saudi Arabia, a country where women don’t get to vote, drive cars, or move freely on the streets, the Metro newspaper reported.

In the Saudi version of Ikea’s annual booklet, all the women who appear in images featured in the catalogue in other countries have been removed via photo retouching.

In the Swedish version of the Ikea catalogue, for example, a mother can be seen standing at a sink next to her child in a stylized bathroom.

In the Saudi catalogue, however, there is no mother; the child stands at the sink alone.

In another image, a woman and a little girl who appear to be studying in the Swedish catalogue have been completely removed from the Saudi version, leaving an empty room.

Ikea has even gone so far as to remove from the Saudi version of the catalogue the image of a female designer who helped design the company’s “PS” line of home furnishings.

While refusing to comment on any company specifically, Swedish Minister of Trade Ewa Björling made no secret of how she felt about the images.

“It’s impossible to retouch women out of reality,” she told Metro.

“These images are yet another regrettable example that shows we have a long road ahead when it comes to gender equality in Saudi Arabia.”

Attorney Claes Borgström, who served as Sweden’s gender equality ombudsman between 2000 and 2007 also slammed Ikea’s decision to remove women from the Saudi catalogue.

“I think the Swedish business community should uphold existing ethical principles. You can’t participate in the marketing and selling of goods in a way that discriminates against women in this way,” he told the paper.

According to Borgström, Ikea would be better off “abstaining from the [Saudi] market completely”.

“One can say that [Ikea] is supporting a view of women that we in Sweden distance ourselves from,” Borgström told Metro.

TT/The Local/dl

Follow The Local on Twitter

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price

In the run-up to what would in normal times be the festive season sales rush, Ikea has vowed to buy back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price
Got any pieces of Ikea furniture at home? You may be able to get rid of it and get money back. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Ikea, the world's largest furniture chain, said Tuesday it would begin buying back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

The “Buy Back Friday” scheme, timed to coincide with the “Black Friday” pre-Christmas retail frenzy, will run from November 24th and until December 3rd in 27 countries.

“Rather than buy things you don't need this Black Friday, we want to help customers give their furniture a second life instead of making an impulse buy,” said Stefan Vanoverbeke, deputy retail operations manager at Ingka Group, Ikea's parent company.

To address concerns its affordable, flat-pack products encourage overconsumption and waste, the Swedish company had previously said it would start renting and recycling furniture as part of an eco-drive.

Under its buyback scheme, the group said that “anything that can't be resold will be recycled or donated to community projects to help those most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“Some countries like Australia and Canada for example are currently testing different buyback services, but BuyBack Friday will be the first time that 27 countries do this together,” the statement added.

The Swedish giant employs over 217,000 people and has more than 50 outlets. Its annual turnover is around 40 billion euros ($46 billion).

The group did not specify how it would determine the price paid for second-hand furniture and customers will receive a voucher, not cash, for their products.  

As part of efforts to reduce waste, Ikea has already begun repairing and re-packaging products in every store that have been damaged in transit, as well as allowing customers to return products – including furniture – for resale or donation to charities.