Ikea in record 29m furniture recall in US after 3 deaths

Ikea’s very successful cabinet kills 3 kids in the US. Should Ikea recall the product just in the US or across the world? Here’s what I shared with Lindsay Whipp at the Financial Times:

Ikea has issued a recall of 29m chests of drawers in the US after three children died as a result of its furniture toppling on to them over the past two years.

The recall, which excludes 6.6m in Canada, of its Malm drawers and other designs comes amid a push by the US Consumer Protection Safety Commission to reduce the number of children being killed due to furniture and television tip-over accidents in the country, which now reaches one every two weeks.

Last year, Ikea offered free wall anchoring kits with many of its chests and dressers, after reports of two deaths. However, subsequently a 22-month-old child died in February this year after an Ikea chest fell on to him and crushed him. The chest had not been secured to the wall.

“We have no information of any tip-over incidents with a properly anchored chest of drawer,” Ikea said. “This is why we are committed to raise awareness among consumers of the tip-over risks and how to prevent them.”

Ikea added that there will be a financial impact, including the “significant investment” it is making in its campaign to educate consumers about preventing tip-overs, but not a lasting one.

The CPSC said that in addition to the deaths, there have been reports of 41 incidents of Ikea Malm chests tipping over resulting in 17 injuries, all children aged between 19 months and 10 years old. In addition, there have been reports of 41 incidents of other Ikea chests toppling over since 1989, with 19 injuries and three deaths, according to the CPSC.

Experts were divided about whether the recall — the biggest furniture recall in the US — could prove damaging to Ikea in North America, an important market for the company. The Swedish group has 3.8 per cent of the furniture retailing market, trailing Bed, Bath and Beyond, in an extremely fragmented market, according to Euromonitor data.

Neil Saunders, a retail analyst at Conlumino, said he did not expect long-term reputational damage as the issue had been going on for some time. He said that while the products could be made safer the company had indicated it had been trying to solve the problem and had not been negligent.

But Dean Crutchfield, an independent branding expert, said that while the deaths occurred in North America, the company should also recall the chests elsewhere in the world. He added that it was not enough that the manual in the UK, for example, advised customers to secure the chest against a wall.

“[What has happened is] an utter outrage for a brand that is about inclusion, warmth and is so widely recognised,” Mr Crutchfield said. “It can destroy a reputation. It says something about the management of Ikea that reflects on its brand.”

Elliot Kaye, chairman of the CPSC, said that Ikea had co-operated with the organisation and pledged to sell only dressers that comply with the most recent performance standards. He warned that other retailers should take heed.

“[Any company] failing to do so should pay close attention to the details of this recall, as they should expect to be hearing from us,” he said. “CPSC will seek recalls of other brands that pose an unreasonable tip-over risk to innocent children.”

Ikea had repeated a safety warning earlier this year about the accidents involving its Malm chests.

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Author: Dean Crutchfield

In an award-winning career spanning two decades, Dean Crutchfield has created, built and re-invigorated some of the world's most iconic brands.

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