Swedish fast furniture giant IKEA boasts a catalog shipped all over the world–according to the Wall Street Journal, they expect to publish 200 million copies with 62 different versions this year. For the most part, those images remain the same, nation to nation. Except when they don’t. Which is to say… when they conform to cultural standards.
As you can see, they’ve digitally removed (quite well, we should add) all the women from the catalog. The side-by-side is somewhat eerie:
Swedish newspaper Metro broke the story, sparking ferocious online outrage over the retailer’s decision. Ulrika Englesson Sandman, a spokeswoman for the IKEA Group, took responsibility for the gaffe in a statement to the WSJ:
“We’re deeply sorry for what has happened,” Ulrika Englesson Sandman said. “It’s not the local franchisee that has removed the photos. The error has occurred in the process of producing the proposal to Saudi Arabia, and that is ultimately our responsibility.”
Ms. Englesson Sandman said the omissions were completely needless since Saudi Arabia doesn’t prohibit women from being depicted in marketing material. “We understand why people are upset,” she said.
Another spokesperson, Ylva Magnusson, added:
“As a producer of the catalog, we regret the current situation. We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog is in conflict with the IKEA Group values. We encourage fair treatment and equal employment opportunities without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation,” she said.
Magnusson says the company is reviewing its routines to “ensure that the different versions of the IKEA catalogs correspond to its antidiscrimination and human-rights policies.”
Sounds like a mistake that didn’t need to be made.
Here’s one last shot: