Swedish furniture giant Ikea has a habit of naming high end products after towns in Sweden, Finland and Norway. But academics in Copenhagen have found a disturbing trend in which Ikea names their lower end items, such as doormats, after towns in Denmark.
According to Klaus Kjoller, a Danish academic at the University of Copenhagen, it’s an example of “Swedish Imperialism”.
Kjoller and his colleague, Professor Trols Mylenberg of the University of Southern Denmark, conducted a joint-analysis of names in Ikea catalogues.
They found that Swedish names are used for products such as chairs, beds and home furnishings. Occasionally a Norwegian name will be used for something in the bed department. Danish names, however, are relegated to ‘lesser’ products.
“Doormats and runners, as well as inexpensive wall-to-wall carpeting are third-class, if not seventh-class, items when it comes to home furnishings,” Professor Kjoller said. “The stuff that goes on the floor is about as low as it gets.”
The professors’ findings have struck a chord among many Danes. One resident wrote into a local newspaper: “Despite the fact that no one has noticed, until now, the brazen insult to the Danish nation, it couldn’t be anything but intentional for a gigantic, well-organised company like Ikea to have used Danish names for its doormats.”
According to Kjoller, the issue is an important one. He says that Ikea’s naming practices “symbolically portrays Denmark as the doormat of neighbouring Sweden, a country with a larger economy and population”.
Ikea spokeswoman Charlotte Lindgren refuted the professors’ claims. “It’s nonsense to say that we did this on purpose. It was a pure coincidence, and it happened many decades ago,” she said.
“The employee who chose Danish names for floor coverings retired long ago,” she said. “Besides, these critics appear to greatly underestimate the importance of floor coverings. We draw worldwide attention to Danish place names with our products.”