Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ikea Talks “Peak Stuff”

Ikea says the Western world has hit “peak stuff,” or “peak curtains” as some are calling it. The term, in either case, is meant to be analogous to peak oil, but does not refer to the world’s limits in creating the raw materials for furniture and housewares. Rather, Ikea’s chief sustainability officer was talking about saturating demand for home furnishings, so that consumers are not interested in buying more new home furnishings in 2016 than they did in 2015. Most home furnishings last for decades, and people will use what they have or buy used furnishings in many cases, so that the demand for newly made items will begin to decline. To stay relevant, Ikea plans to find ways to repair and recycle some of the items it sells, areas of work it had never taken an interest in before. A skeptical summary by Sean Farrell at Guardian Business:

Ikea won’t talk about this angle, but many Western homes simply don’t have any spare space to put more stuff, and the previous reaction of buying ever-larger houses seems to have run its course seven years ago. With limited space, consumers can buy new stuff only if it is so improved that they can justify throwing away something old, and this cycle of product improvement also has its limits. It is certainly a difficult challenge for the factory sector: how do you sell consumers more stuff when the stuff they have already is good enough and there is no room for more? It is not as if people will stop buying stuff, but they may slow down, and that is what both Ikea and the global manufacturing sector seem to be seeing now.

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