IKEA is looking at bringing a “take back” program to Canada that would allow customers to trade furniture purchased from the Swedish furniture giant in exchange for store credit.
Under the initiative, mirrored after similar environmentally-friendly initiatives in France and Belgium, the retailer would then resell the second-hand item or recycle it.
“If we can have an impact on people’s lives at home, we could have a huge impact on the environment,” said IKEA Canada president Stefan Sjöstrand at the opening of a pickup and order location in Whitby, Ont.
Sjöstrand was part of the team that helped bring the program to France, and said the same could be done in Canada, where IKEA operates 12 stores and three pickup and order locations.
Though he admitted the program could still be years away, once implemented, it would make a big difference for IKEA’s environmental footprint if even 10% of its customers returned their old furniture, he said.
Last year, IKEA Canada had 25 million visitors in its stores and 75 million visits online.
The comments come after Steve Howard, the head of sustainability at IKEA, told a conference in January that appetite for home furnishings in western countries has hit its “peak,” prompting the world’s largest furniture retailer to look at ways to encourage customers to repair and recycle IKEA products.
Sjöstrand said IKEA already had recycling programs for plastics, paper, light bulbs and mattresses in place in Canada and was also the first retailer in the country to phase out the sale of incandescent light bulbs in favour of the more energy-saving LED bulbs.
While it is taking a more planet-friendly approach to commerce, Sjöstrand said this does not slow down its plan to open 12 more full-size stores over the next decade. The next location was recently announced in Halifax.
For IKEA, bricks-and-mortar stores are still its largest sales driver, accounting for 80% to 90% of sales last year, with the rest coming from ecommerce. The company recorded $1.8 billion in sales in Canada in 2015.
In addition to its pickup and order points in Quebec City, London and Whitby, Ont., IKEA plans to open three more such shops in the Ontario cities of St. Catharines, Kitchener and Windsor.
These smaller locations allow customers to order items online and pick them up in the store for a flat fee of $20. Various popular items like towels, candles and pillows are also available in the stores for purchase. These stores are around 30,000 square feet versus the 270,000 square feet of a typical IKEA store.
Canada has the most IKEA pickup and order locations out of any country, with the others opened last year in Spain, Norway, Finland and the United Kingdom.