These days it is twenty years since Swedish IKEA seized the opportunity and entered the market of what was then Czechoslovakia, which was gradually opening to the Western world after being closed for decades by the Iron Curtain.
IKEA’s entrance into the post-communist country was however marked by a great misunderstanding, which is still alive. And both sides – IKEA and Czech consumers – seem to be quite happy about it.
IKEA was one of the first Western furniture brands to offer Czechs to buy different chairs, tables, and armchairs than those that had been provided by the state-directed economy. And that’s how the misunderstanding emerged – while in most Western countries people consider IKEA a low-cost alternative for students, young couples, and other people on rather restricted budget, Czechs started to see IKEA as a fashionable, luxury brand.
IKEA’s sales in the Czech Republic show that Czechs are fascinated by the Swedish brand – its simple Scandinavian design, the way furniture is displayed in IKEA’s shops, and also all those small details the IKEA-shopping provides.
“Although at the beginning of its presence in the Czech Republic IKEA was seen as a luxury brand, more than by prices this was caused by the attractive design and the way products were offered. It did not sell mere furniture, but lifestyle,” said Petr Chadraba, the chain’s spokesman in the Czech Republic.
While in Germany or Britain IKEA is seen as a low-cost brand, in the Czech Republic it is considered to be in a middle price range.
“While the Anglo-Saxon culture estimates the artisan manufacturing, handwork, and quality material, here (in the Czech Republic) we have more of the Italian attitude – what matters is not the quality, but design,” explained Petr Styx, a marketing specialist.
Even after 20 years, Czechs are not willing to pay for longer durability of their furniture, which is determined by the material and manufacturing. The price is always the main indicator.
IKEA’s effort to keep its prices as low as possible is no secret. “We want our products to be available to as many people as possible, and that’s why we must always keep the lowest price level possible. In the last three years, we have managed to cut the prices by 20 percent,” said Chadraba.
What appeals to Czechs is also the do-it-yourself attitude which is needed when buying IKEA’s ready-to-assemble furniture.
Ondřej Brunecký, a designer from ViewArt, admits that IKEA furniture offers many practical and smart solutions, and is original in spite of its low price. However, he adds, Czech should learn to find a middle-way and realize that they cannot expect the durability of made-to-measure hardwood furniture from much cheaper IKEA products.