Ikea clears major hurdle in India expansion bid

India's foreign investment panel has cleared a nearly $2-billion plan by Swedish furniture giant Ikea to open its stores in the country as it seeks new markets for its flat-pack products.

Ikea clears major hurdle in India expansion bid

Two months ago, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board rejected 15 of Ikea’s 30 product lines, including food and textiles, underscoring the regulatory hurdles faced by foreign stores hoping to enter the Indian market.

But late on Monday, commerce minister Anand Sharma said that the investment board had cleared the plan.

“This is a positive development,” Sharma said.

“The government is committed to playing a constructive role in encourage foreign direct investment.

Ikea had told the Indian government the company must be allowed to retain its “global model” in India, retailing all of its products and running its in-store restaurants as it does in every country where it has operations.

Reacting to the announcement, Ikea said the clearance of its proposal by the foreign investment panel “as per the Ikea concept” was “an important milestone in the application process”.

“We consider this as a very positive development,” Juvencio Maeztu, Ikea country manager, said in a statement.

“We are now waiting for approval from the cabinet and subsequently a notification so that we can initiate the process of establishing Ikea stores in the country,” Maeztu said in a statement.

Clearance from the Indian cabinet was expected to be forthcoming after the commerce minister said late last month that “we accept their global model” and “we see no reason why their global model has to be changed in any manner.”

Ikea’s entry into India — it has pledged to invest $1.9 billion in coming years — is being closely watched as a test case for how a large foreign corporation negotiates India’s byzantine rules and red tape.

The government in September announced a string of pro-market and investor-friendly reforms that relaxed or removed barriers to foreign retailers.

Ikea, which submitted its application last June, hopes to open 25 of its stores in India through a 100-percent owned unit, Ingka Holding, as part of a wider push into emerging markets such as China and Russia.

Ikea, which in 2009 scrapped plans to enter the market due to regulatory concerns, says it has a “long-term vision” for India and sees huge potential in its burgeoning middle class.

AFP/The Local/dl

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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.