Retail

IKEA, H&M Funding Tech Startups To Sidestep Retail Disruption

IKEA, H&M, retailers, furniture, clothing, retail disruption, Venture Capital investments, news

IKEA and Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) are putting money into technology startups as a way to help them sidestep retail disruption, the Financial Times (FT) reported Wednesday (Nov. 6).

IKEA, the largest furniture retailer worldwide, and H&M, the second-largest clothing store, have been making venture capital investments into a variety of technology companies.

Ingka Group, IKEA retailer and investment arm, has invested 200 million euros ($221 million) in 21 firms, including robotic furniture maker Ori Living and mattress recycling company RetourMatras.

H&M has invested over 500 million Swedish kronas ($52 million) in 16 companies working on sustainable clothing manufacturing, including the dye company Colorifix and FinTech Klarna.

Jesper Brodin, CEO of Ingka, told FT that Ikea’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, stashed money aside “for a rainy day” and invested most of it in bonds “in case we run into trouble.” Lately, the firm has also been putting money into venture capital investments.

“Ingvar was always talking about long-term needs and saving money for when you need it,” Brodin told FT. “Partly, we need it now as our business is transforming. We have made venture investments in interesting companies, particularly in sustainability and digital.”

H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson told FT the company has been investing in businesses it thinks will benefit it in some way. He said investing has been “a good financial journey but for us, but the most important thing is they are [businesses] we believe that can really help the company.”

The retailer made numerous investments in “sustainable material innovations,” like the Swedish startup Renewcell, which uses recycled textiles to make clothes.

“It will not change us now, but in the future, I think it will do a great amount of good for the world, and hopefully also for the company,” Persson said. “I believe many of the conventional materials today will be replaced by these sustainable materials with quality and prices that are as good or better.”

IKEA bought TaskRabbit in September 2017. It was the first acquisition of its kind by the company in the United States, IKEA’s second-largest market behind Germany.

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