IKEA Chief believes we have reached ‘Peak Stuff’ – What does that mean for consumer brands?

Retail brand agency

Has the West has reached it’s peak of Consumerism?
During a recent interview with NPR in the US, IKEA’s Global Chief Sustainability Officer, Steve Howard opined: “If you look at things like oil–well, actually, oil sales have peaked in the U.S. and Western Europe. Beef sales have pretty much peaked. Sugar sales have pretty much peaked. You can see trends in things like cars where young people, they’re getting their driving licenses either later or not getting them at all. This trend’s very broad across society… and we’re [IKEA] not immune from the trade. Obviously, you know, there are still people who don’t have–who have very limited means who would like significantly more stuff. But broadly, you saw a tremendous expansion in consumption and people’s livelihoods through the 20th century. And the use of stuff is plateauing out.”

That’s a pretty significant statement from a business that has grown globally by selling more stuff to more people to put into their homes than anyone else on the planet. Should this trend play-out, that’s unquestionably good news for the sustainability of the planet. But what does it mean for the sustainability of every business owner and brand manager who also has a business based on selling products to people?

All markets change. Take just about any market leading retail, service or consumer brand from the year 2000 and drop them into their 2016 market place and watch them flounder like a fish out of water. A decrease in consumer demand for ‘stuff’ will drive a new evolution across many consumer categories and the B2B ecosystem that supports them. As before we will see new brands with a challenger mindset take to the change like a duck to water. With an intuitive grasp of the new consumer and an ‘integrated, brand strategy built-in product development approach’, new players will emerge to dominate the new landscape as Airbnb and Uber have done. Other brands will scramble to adapt their offer and their brand positioning to have an equally relevant role to play in the new economy, and as history promises, other businesses and their brands will go the way of the dinosaur.

It will be those businesses with their eyes to the horizon, hungrily seeking signs of change and the appetite and nimbleness to adapt as trends emerge who will profit and find growth, even in a shrinking market.

Dave Ansett
Truly Deeply Founder & Creator of Brands
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Image courtesy; IKEA


  1. Steve Howard’s comment is of great import, not just for Ikea but for all the other homewares businesses in the world. There is a growing global trend of customers to buy what they “will” use .. a necessity rather than accumulate “stuff” that will never be opened or used.
    This inertia to spend, and the young (<30's) most often check the green credentials and design significance of the product before spending. We probably have reached the peak and are just at the start of the uber-isation of everything. Share your "stuff".

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