Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad died at age 91 on Jan. 27, the company said in a press release this weekend.
Kamprad launched the now-iconic company in 1943, which is now the world's largest furniture retailer, selling all kinds of merchandise. He innovated the flat-pack system to distribute furniture, so that customers could carry away the goods in their cars and assemble the pieces in their own homes.
Meanwhile, Ikea is mulling rent or leasing options for customers to ease the recycling of furniture, carpets and other goods, as part of a concerted effort to test "radical solutions," CEO Jesper Brodin said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week, according to a report from the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph.
Kamprad hasn't had an operational role within Ikea since 1988, but continued to contribute to the business as a senior advisor, "sharing his knowledge and energy," Brodin said in a letter about the founder's passing.
"His greatest contributions to Ikea are his vision – to create a better everyday life for the many people, the Ikea culture and the long term approach to business," Brodin wrote. "In the spirit of what Ingvar began, we will continue to grow and develop on this strong foundation."
That's not just Ikea's take. Many observers over the weekend noted Kamprad's contribution to the evolution of retail. "Few people can claim to have genuinely revolutionized retail," GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders told Retail Dive in an email, "Ingvar Kamprad did."
The contribution is rooted in Kamprad's belief that people of all income levels should be able to afford to decorate and furnish their homes stylishly and comfortably, according to Saunders, which led to his innovation of the flat-pack system. "Distributing flat-pack was much more efficient and economical than shipping fully made items," he said. "It also divided the effort — prices were lower because the customer had to assemble the product; that was the trade-off or compromise."
The company has maintained its dedication to innovation, including the incorporation of artificial intelligence, virtual assistants and smart lighting systems, and Brodin last week offered some clues to what else that entails.
The company is exploring how to incorporate the consumer embrace of the sharing economy to maximize efficiencies and foster recycling, according to the Telegraph. Ikea, in addition to looking at fulfillment ideas like rentals, is also developing more environmentally efficient ways to build furniture, according to the report.
The company's innovations, until recently, didn't really extend to e-commerce. Its thrifty, efficient ethos kept the retailer dedicated to physical stores, apparently unwilling to take on the added costs of fulfillment and shipping that e-commerce entails. That has changed in recent months, with Ikea last year establishing a relationship with Amazon and in December announcing a "test and learn" phase to, in part, develop more nimble online sales.