Who still goes to Ikea in a relaxed manner?

The saws are still cutting, and the chipboards are being transported through the halls on long conveyor belts. However, in a few weeks, unintentional silence will settle in the Maja furniture factories in Wittichenau. The factory in the northeastern part of Saxony, which used to produce an impressive 25,000 finished furniture pieces per day, nearly six million shelves and cabinets every year, is the largest supplier of the Swedish furniture conglomerate Ikea in Germany – and one of the largest worldwide. However, in December, the factory is scheduled to close after more than 30 years.

Why now of all times? The furniture industry experienced a strong boom not too long ago. The demand for new cabinets, sofas, and tables was so high during the COVID-19 pandemic that furniture stores like Ikea couldn’t keep up with production. However, with the pandemic and the Ukraine war, high inflation has also arrived, causing prices to rise so much that many customers are now saving when it comes to larger purchases like furniture. And this is leaving clear marks on the furniture industry and trade.

Uwe Gottschlich, the CEO of Maja Möbelwerke, does not want to say much about the closure of his factory. He only mentioned that Ikea has „unexpectedly announced“ the termination of their partnership and „ending all orders“. He stated that this decision was not foreseeable for him at any time. The remaining 450 employees, out of the previous 900, will soon lose their jobs, also due to the lack of alternative buyers. The company has relied too heavily on the major customer Ikea over the years, aligning production with their requirements, as they believed in a mutual dependence as a large supplier.

Konsumstimmung auf dem Tiefpunkt

Ikea, however, seems to have been the superior partner in this relationship. The company does not want to comment further on the decision, only stating in writing that they acted „in accordance with the agreement between both parties.“ However, the reasons for terminating such a large supplier within a few weeks and the motivations behind the decision can only be reconstructed through third-party statements. It is clear that the economy and consumer buying habits play an important role in this.

„I cannot reword“

This development is also reflected in the numbers of the…Gesellschaft für KonsumforschungIn August, consumer sentiment in Germany experienced a setback, according to GfK. The „persistently high inflation rates,“ particularly for food and energy, have resulted in the current stagnation of the consumer climate, says Rolf Bürkl, GfK consumer expert. The chances of a sustainable recovery in consumer sentiment this year are diminishing more and more, partly due to consumers‘ significantly more pessimistic assessment of Germany’s overall economic development in August, as stated by GfK. The indicator for economic expectations has reached its lowest value in 2023. Additionally, there is growing concern about job loss, which is playing a more important role again.

Who still buys in this situationMöbel, für die man in der Regel einige hundert oder Tausende Euro mehr investieren muss als für einen neuen Pullover oder ein Paar Schuhe? Besonders das Geschäft mit Einbauküchen, die hohe Investitionen erfordern, leidet nach Branchenangaben momentan, da auch die Neubautätigkeit eingebrochen ist. Und wo keine neuen Häuser oder Wohnungen entstehen, werden auch keine neuen Küchen gebraucht. Fragt man jedoch bei den Unternehmen selbst nach, zum Beispiel bei Nobilia, mit 4.500 Beschäftigten und vier Fabriken in Deutschland der Marktführer unter den Küchenherstellern, so erhält man keine Antwort zur wirtschaftlichen Lage oder den weiteren Geschäftsaussichten. Dabei war Nobilia zuletzt äußerst erfolgreich, expandierte in den vergangenen Jahren kräftig. Jetzt aber lehnt das Unternehmen eine Stellungnahme ab.

Ein Drittel weniger Umsatz

The director of one of the largest furniture factories in Poland, who does not want to be named, provides information but does not want to be named because they also supply Ikea and other major furniture stores. The entire furnishing industry is suffering from revenue losses, so much so that even the optimistic forecasts for the coming months and next year have been discarded. „Just take a look at the parking lots of German furniture retailers on a Saturday afternoon,“ he says. „Then you can see the difference for yourself.“

The merchants are now trying to force lower prices from the industry. Ikea is particularly aggressive in this regard. The company now only outsources the production of certain furniture pieces. Whoever submits the cheapest offer wins. „Ikea does not enter into long-term supply contracts with us manufacturers for two or three years,“ says the furniture entrepreneur. „Instead, new conditions are negotiated for each order.“ This makes it particularly difficult for producers to invest in machinery and production facilities because of the uncertainty. „We producers are being beaten in these negotiations,“ says the CEO. The merchants have not only reduced the ordered volumes but are also increasingly turning to producers outside of Europe.

Für die Firma aus Polen bedeutet das im Moment, dass sie etwa 1.000 Jobs streichen muss, jetzt arbeiten noch 2.500 Beschäftigte für den Hersteller. Der Umsatz gehe um 20 bis 30 Prozent zurück. Solange sich die Stimmung der Verbraucherinnen und Verbraucher nicht aufhelle, befürchtet der Unternehmer, werde sich die Lage für die Industrie auch nicht verbessern.