SHARE
COPY LINK

GENDER

Ikea ‘sorry’ for erasing women in Saudi book

Swedish furniture giant Ikea has apologized for removing all the women from their Saudi Arabian catalogue, following public outrage in Sweden including the EU minister slamming the action as “medieval”.

Ikea 'sorry' for erasing women in Saudi book

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

The altered images caused a stir when revealed in Swedish media, prompting an apology from Ikea’s head office in Sweden.

“We apologize and understand that people are upset,” said Ulrika Englesson Sandman, a spokeswoman for the Inter IKEA Systems, which owns the Ikea trademark and concept, to the Expressen newspaper.

“This is really unfortunate. We have been in contact with Saudi Arabia to discuss this issue. It should be possible to balance Ikea’s values so that we don’t discriminate people. At the same time, we try to adapt to the cultures and the legislation that are there,” she told Sveriges Radio (SR).

The removal of the women, including a young girl who was pictured studying at her desk, has prompted a strong response from many prominent women in Sweden:

“You can’t remove or airbrush women out of reality. If Saudi Arabia does not allow women to be seen or heard, or to work, they are letting half their intellectual capital go to waste,” Swedish minister for trade, Ewa Björling, said in a statement.

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

Her sentiment was echoed by Sweden’s European Union Minister Birgitta Ohlsson, who branded the incident “medieval” on the social networking site Twitter.

Even the image of a female designer who helped design the company’s “PS” line of home furnishings has been removed from the Saudi catalogues.

Saudi Arabia applies strict rules of gender segregation, banning women from driving and requiring them to have permission from a male guardian before travelling or receiving medical care.

Ikea’s Saudi franchise partner currently operates three stores in the country, where it has seen “double digit” yearly growth over the past five years, according to its website.

The Local/AFP/og

Follow The Local on Twitter

Member comments

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

IKEA

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.

SHOW COMMENTS