It’s unusual for Ikea to hire a senior retail executive from outside of the business; not that you can truly count Peter Jelkeby as an outsider.
Jelkeby spent the best part of two decades with Ikea in the 1990s and 2000s before leaving to run another Swedish retail brand in the shape of Clas Ohlson.
A decade on, Jelkeby is back as Ikea’s new UK and Ireland country manager replacing Javier Quiñones who has left to become country retail manager in the US.
Jelkeby moved up the ranks through store, marketing and sales management roles during his first spell with Ikea UK ultimately becoming deputy country manager. He will return to find a business that has changed significantly while in many ways staying the same.
Although the culture of “togetherness” that Ikea promotes so proudly hasn’t changed (the retailer still largely promotes from within the organisation) the newfound willingness of the business to embrace the digital revolution is having a manifest impact on the way it operates.
Historically, as a customer, it could feel like Ikea was doing everything in its power to dissuade you from buying online with its clunky website and exorbitant delivery fees.
That is all changing and the business is now going through a multichannel transformation that will allow it to deliver the experience customers want.
Recent Group-level hires have reflected this priority. Experienced CTO Susan Standiford joined at the start of this year, while CIO Benny Svensson took on new role of digital transformation manager at the end of 2018.
The fact Quiñones was dispatched to run the US business after less than a year in post might suggest the UK business is down the pecking order; but in fact the UK market is hugely important to Ikea not only because of its financial contribution but because it is used as a pilot market for much of the Group’s multichannel transformation work.
Fulfilment is a particular area of focus. Ikea’s new Greenwich store is capable of making deliveries within three miles using electronic bikes, while the retailer has also started trialling smaller format ‘Order and Collection’ points to bridge the gap between online and in-store shopping.
One of Jelkeby’s predecessors, Gillian Drakeford, set an ambitious target in 2013 for Ikea to double its UK market share and sales by 2020. Progress has been steady, although with time running out the business is still some way from achieving Drakeford’s target.
With over 30 years’ experience spanning multiple markets including Russia and Vietnam Jelkeby can call upon a solid bank of retail and leadership experience as he sets about taking the UK business to the next level.