Belarus-based furniture outfit Swed House has started replacing Swedish giant IKEA in Russia. This comes 13 months after the latter closed its 17 stores in the country, in solidarity with hundreds of other companies that have exited Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine. IKEA, world’s biggest furniture brand, also wound down operations in Belarus.
In Moscow, Swed House recently opened a store to sell furniture and other goods that imitate IKEA’s. General director Mamedali Kasymov has been quick to remind customers that “we are not IKEA,” though up to 20% of the retailer’s stock is IKEA products. While “we aim to be like IKEA, we have our own brands, our own goods,” Kasymov added in a Reuters interview. “Yes, we have IKEA items as well.”
His statement has left some customers wondering about the authenticity of the IKEA-branded furniture the copycat firm is selling. “Nobody prohibited us from doing this,” Kasymov said.
Customers also are wondering about the blue-and-yellow branding used by Swed House. Similar shades have appeared in the IKEA logo for years; they also happen to be the colors of the Ukrainian national flag.
IKEA would still like to return to doing business in Russia
Despite the store’s relatively small showroom, some shoppers have welcomed its arrival after more than a year without access to IKEA products. “Nice beginning of the return of the things we miss,” one customer told Reuters. “We hope that there will be more items on sale.”
Swed House plans to start with five stores in Moscow before expanding to other Russian cities next year.
Last June, IKEA owner Ingka Holding said it hopes to resume business in Russia sometime in the future. In August, a source close to IKEA told Russian news agency TASS that the furniture maker plans to return to Russia “within a year to two,” amid rising pressure to sell its three factories to local owners. IKEA maintains that it is “not going to sell its business in Russia.”
In 2021, Russia accounted for 4%, or $1.8 billion, of IKEA’s earnings from retail sales, making the country its 10th-biggest market in the 31 countries where it operated that year.