In an effort to change the stagnant retail landscape and convince Americans to buy more good, used furniture instead of buying new, Ikea will begin buying back used products.
“There’s a long heritage in Europe of buying secondhand and the U.S. is no different,” Erik Engstrom, the head of Ikea North America, said at a press conference on Tuesday in New York City. The company will offer up to $1,000 for items that are up to 20 years old. The purchase prices will vary depending on the quality of the furniture and what condition it is in. It does not offer a cash discount for purchases between 21 and 25 years old.
Depending on what Ikea plans to do with the used furniture, the company expects the initiative could create between 200,000 and 250,000 jobs, Engstrom said.
“I think the market gets more interesting for what’s currently for sale, but I am really encouraging people to bring more used items to the store,” said Engstrom. “We also have to grow organically, and we have a culture that doesn’t care about scale.”
The initiative comes as high-end furniture retailers such as Restoration Hardware and West Elm have ditched their focus on used furniture in favor of more modern designs. “There’s a perception that people don’t buy used,” said Engstrom.
The new program will be a last resort for consumers to do right by themselves. “You go back and look at a card catalog at Ikea, and the use is even less for things in color — it’s safe, it’s young,” Engstrom said. He added that other furniture brands would be approached for similar initiatives.
“At the same time, Ikea has for years been trying to break into the sales channel for home improvement retailers,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail research firm. “This is a good first step.”
Ikea’s move will come as a relief to some in the recycling industry. Ikea, with 500 locations in the U.S., is the second largest purchaser of imported used furniture in the U.S., according to Statista.com. Ikea also ranks third in imported used furniture in Europe behind Bonmarché and MDF International.
“We applaud Ikea for thinking outside the box and recognize that we will not fully solve the need for used furniture and improvement in our market until the overall market improves,” said Annette Antonini, executive director of industry group the Used Furniture Industry Alliance.
Ikea is the latest high-profile company to announce efforts to help consumers recycle used furniture. Adidas earlier this year announced that it will open up 10 recycling centers in nine countries by 2020, including its first in New York and its first in the United States. Among those sites are the Western Connecticut facility in Orange, which is scheduled to begin in December.
This effort follows Ikea’s similar efforts, which began in 2003, to allow people to recycle unused furniture.